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From Unitarianism to Deism: Matthew Tindal, John Toland, and the Trinitarian Controversy

De l’unitarisme au déisme : Matthew Tindal, John Toland et la controverse trinitarienne
Diego Lucci

Résumés

Dans l’Angleterre de la fin du XVIIe siècle, la controverse trinitarienne voit s’affronter les théologiens unitariens, inspirés par le socinianisme et d’autres traditions théologiques qui nient la Trinité, et les théologiens trinitariens, qui justifient le dogme de la Trinité de diverses façons, mais surtout par voie de spéculation métaphysique. Pour les penseurs déistes comme Matthew Tindal et John Toland, la controverse trinitarienne est aussi l’occasion d’exprimer des opinions plus hétérodoxes encore que celles des unitariens comme Stephen Nye, qui rejette la doctrine de la Trinité, mais continue d’affirmer l’autorité divine des Écritures et le pouvoir salvifique de la révélation chrétienne. L’historiographie a parfois décrit la Letter to the Reverend the Clergy (1694) et les Reflections on […] the Doctrine of the Trinity (1695) de Tindal, et Christianity Not Mysterious (1696) de Toland, comme des ouvrages essentiellement unitariens, héritiers du socinianisme et des idées de Locke. Cependant, dans leurs ouvrages du milieu des années 1690, Tindal et Toland emploient des méthodes historiques, critiques et philosophiques qui soumettent les Écritures aux critères de la raison impartiale et du savoir. Ainsi, ils rejettent la possibilité qu’il y ait des « vérités au-dessus de la raison », et réduisent la révélation au rang de simple « moyen d’information ». Dans ces écrits, Tindal et Toland adaptent tous les deux la façon de penser de Locke à leurs opinions et à leurs besoins respectifs. Les tracts de Tindal sur la Trinité préfigurent la religion de la nature qu’il expliquera plus tard dans Christianity as Old as the Creation (1730), tandis que Christianity Not Mysterious de Toland est fortement influencé par l’herméneutique biblique de Spinoza. En bref, les écrits de Tindal et de Toland du milieu des années 1690 sont déjà essentiellement déistes.

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Introduction

1The Trinitarian controversy in late seventeenth-century England saw the opposition between Unitarian theologians led by the heterodox clergyman Stephen Nye, who drew on Socinianism and other theological traditions in denying the Trinity, and Trinitarian divines. Some of the latter, such as William Sherlock, Robert South, John Wallis, and John Edwards, employed different philosophical models to defend the Trinitarian dogma. As a result, they clashed with one another and caused embarrassment in the Church of England, to such a point that the ecclesiastical and political authorities eventually intervened to end the controversy in 1696-1697.

  • 1 Matthew Tindal, A Letter to the Reverend the Clergy of Both Universities, concerning the Trinity an (...)
  • 2 John Toland, Christianity Not Mysterious: or, A Treatise Shewing, that there is Nothing in the Gosp (...)
  • 3 Robert E. Sullivan, John Toland and the Deist Controversy: A Study in Adaptations, Cambridge MA, Ha (...)
  • 4 R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 109. On the debate on Christianity Not Mysterious in the 1690s and 170 (...)
  • 5 R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 110.
  • 6 I give more details on the Stillingfleet-Locke dispute below in the present article.
  • 7 Gerald R. Cragg, From Puritanism to the Age of Reason, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1950, (...)
  • 8 R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 109-140; Stephen H. Daniel, John Toland: His Methods, Manners, and Min (...)

2During the Trinitarian controversy, Matthew Tindal and John Toland, who were later numbered among the foremost deists of the Age of Enlightenment, wrote and published some of their early writings concerning the Christian religion. Tindal composed two tracts, A Letter to the Reverend the Clergy of Both Universities, concerning the Trinity and the Athanasian Creed (1694) and The Reflections on the XXVIII Propositions Touching the Doctrine of the Trinity (1695),1 while Toland wrote his best-known and most controversial book, Christianity Not Mysterious (1696).2 Several historians have seen these writings as mainly indebted to Socinian theology and to John Locke’s way of ideas. As regards Tindal’s position in his two tracts on the Trinity, Robert Sullivan has characterized it as “Unitarian”, Philip Dixon and Christopher Walker have considered it as simply a contribution to the anti-Trinitarian cause, and Stephen Lalor has defined these two writings “rationalist and Unitarian”, and has stressed Tindal’s debt to Locke.3 Concerning Toland, Sullivan has correctly observed that most contemporaries were convinced that Christianity Not Mysterious was a “Socinian” work: “Whether they read Christianity Not Mysterious as a rejection of Christ’s divinity and the Athanasian Creed or as a series of vaguer, if disturbingly heterodox, insinuations, virtually all who attacked it shared the judgment that it was ‘a Branch of that bitter Root of Socinianism’”.4 Moreover, various anonymous Unitarian writers portrayed Toland as an advocate of their positions, and this further contributed to spread the opinion that Toland was essentially a Socinian.5 Furthermore, a famous latitudinarian theologian, Bishop Edward Stillingfleet, expressed the opinion that Locke’s empiricist philosophy had enabled Toland to deny the Trinity. Replying to this charge, Locke disassociated himself from Toland and (correctly) depicted the latter’s views on Christianity as more heterodox than the Unitarians’ mere denial of the Trinity.6 However, the long-lasting association of Christianity Not Mysterious with the English anti-Trinitarians’ positions and with Locke’s way of ideas has led several historians to emphasize the alleged dependence of this book upon Socinianism or Locke’s empiricism, or both, and hence to contend that Toland developed markedly deistic views only later in his life.7 On the other hand, various scholars, such as Robert Sullivan, Stephen Daniel, and Justin Champion, have accurately noted that Christianity Not Mysterious played a key role in the development of deism in England.8 In this article, I argue that, although Tindal defined himself a “deist” only in his later work, and although Toland never called himself a “deist”, and was regarded as such by posterity, Tindal’s two tracts on the Trinity and Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious were essentially deistic writings.

  • 9 R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 232.
  • 10 Matthew Tindal, Christianity as Old as the Creation: or, the Gospel, a Republication of the Religio (...)
  • 11 Whereas the reduction of Jesus Christ to merely a moral philosopher who had simply reaffirmed the l (...)
  • 12 John Leland, A View of the Principal Deistical Writers, 2 vols., London, Dod, 1757.
  • 13 Edward Herbert of Cherbury, De veritate, prout distinguitur a revelatione, a verosimili, a possibil (...)
  • 14 Dodwell was a son of the famous biblical scholar Henry Dodwell, the Elder. He was the author of the (...)
  • 15 Arthur O. Lovejoy, “The Parallel of Deism and Classicism”, Modern Philology, 29, 3, 1932, p. 281-29 (...)

3Before proceeding further, I need to clarify what I mean by terms like “deism”, “deist”, and “deistic”. Defining English deism is indeed a hard task, and there is no unique variety of deism. In this regard, Sullivan has used the expression “elusiveness of deism” to highlight the difficulty to explain the main tenets of English deism.9 In late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England, some deists, such as Matthew Tindal and Thomas Morgan, and various anti-deistic writers, including, among others, the Newtonian Boyle lecturer Samuel Clarke, saw the essence of deism in belief in an intelligent and transcendent Supreme Being that has ordered the universe according to perfect laws – laws that this Supreme Being could not or would not change.10 According to this view of deism, the divine creator and legislator has also provided human beings with a perfect moral law accessible to natural reason – a moral law that Jesus Christ simply reaffirmed, without adding any suprarational revelation to it.11 Thus, to the deists, the true Christian religion is simply a revival of the universal, necessary, and sufficient religion of nature. Nevertheless, this “narrow” definition of deism applies to only a few authors in Enlightenment England – actually, only to Tindal, Morgan, and other deists of the mid-eighteenth century, such as Thomas Chubb and Peter Annet. In fact, this conception of deism was already questioned by some contemporaries, including the Presbyterian minister John Leland, who, in 1757, published the first comprehensive examination of English deism.12 According to Leland, the roots of English deism could be traced to De veritate (1624) by the late Renaissance thinker Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, whose religion of nature consists of few simple notions concerning God’s existence, the divinely given and rational moral law, and otherworldly rewards and sanctions.13 Moreover, Leland included among the English deists not only those who, like Tindal, Chubb, and Morgan, believed in a transcendent deity and in the primacy and sufficiency of natural religion, but also other heterodox authors, such as the pantheist Charles Blount, the determinist Anthony Collins, and the monist John Toland. Despite some shortcomings (such as the inclusion of Thomas Hobbes and of the skeptic Henry Dodwell, the Younger in its list of “deistical writers”),14 Leland’s work had a significant impact on historians of deism in the two and a half centuries following its publication. Particularly during the past century or so – from the publication of Arthur Lovejoy’s seminal article “The Parallel of Deism and Classicism” (1932) to several recent monographs15 – historiography on English deism has developed a broader definition of this current of thought, stressing the common features of the English Enlightenment authors usually called “deists”. These common features include a view of revealed religion as ill-grounded or as secondary in comparison with natural religion, a conception of history as a process of corruption, a critical approach to positive religion and to its founding texts and institutions, the idea that the moral law is comprehensible to natural reason, and a strong emphasis on morality and rationality as the core of “true religion”. These tenets unquestionably emerge from both Tindal’s and Toland’s eighteenth-century works and, as I argue in this article, already informed their writings of the mid-1690s on the Trinity and mysteries in Christianity.

  • 16 John Toland, Letters to Serena, London, Lintot, 1704, letters IV-V, p. 131-239. For recent, excelle (...)

4At the time of the Trinitarian controversy, both Tindal and Toland were still far from formulating their deistic philosophies in thorough and explicit terms. Tindal expounded his religion of nature in detail in Christianity as Old as the Creation (1730). In this book, which was labeled “the Bible of deism”, he described the Gospel as a mere “republication” of the religion of nature, which, according to Tindal, consists of simple principles, comprehensible to unassisted reason, about morality, rewards and punishments in the afterlife, and the existence of a transcendent, wise, and benevolent creator. As regards Toland, he worked on developing his monistic philosophy especially in the early eighteenth century, when he composed Letters to Serena (1704).16 However, Tindal’s two tracts on the Trinity presented many dissimilarities to Unitarian writings of the same period and prefigured, in various respects, the religion of nature that he later explained in Christianity as Old as the Creation. Moreover, the method of biblical interpretation that Tindal endorsed in his Letter to the Reverend the Clergy was perfectly in line with Spinoza’s biblical hermeneutics. Concerning Toland, Christianity Not Mysterious, far from being an essentially Socinian or Lockean work, was significantly influenced by Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus (1670). In fact, Christianity Not Mysterious described Jesus, the Scriptures, and early Christianity in deistic, rather than Unitarian, terms.

5In the next section of this article, I outline the main tenets of Socinianism, and the background and context of the Trinitarian controversy in late seventeenth-century England. There are at least two important reasons for providing a brief account of Socinian theology and of the Trinitarian controversy before examining Tindal’s and Toland’s works of the mid-1690s. Despite the remarkable differences between English deism in its various stripes and English Unitarianism, the Trinitarian controversy facilitated the emergence of deistic views in Enlightenment England. The turmoil caused by the Trinitarian controversy indeed encouraged deists like Tindal and Toland to publish their attacks on the Trinitarian dogma and on mysteries in religion, thus triggering the deist controversy in England. Moreover, having a clear idea of the views and arguments advanced by Socinians and Unitarians, both before and during the Trinitarian controversy, can enable us to appreciate the distance between Tindal’s and Toland’s works of the mid-1690s and the Socinian theological tradition. The article then presents an analysis of Tindal’s two tracts on the Trinity and Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious. In this analysis, I call attention to the similarities and differences between the views expressed in these works and Socinian, Unitarian, and Lockean ideas, in order to show that Tindal’s writings on the Trinity and Toland’s masterpiece of 1696 were already deistic in essence – not Socinian, Unitarian, or fundamentally Lockean.

The Trinitarian controversy of the late seventeenth century

  • 17 On anti-Trinitarianism, and Socinianism in particular, in the early modern period, see Earl M. Wilb (...)
  • 18 Socinus and his immediate disciples’ theories, including their criticism of the Trinity and of Calv (...)
  • 19 For instance, they interpreted the word “beginning” in John 1:1 (“In the beginning was the Word, an (...)
  • 20 Boethius formulated this definition of “person” in the sixth century. On the anti-Trinitarians’ emp (...)
  • 21 On this point, see Sarah Mortimer, “Human Liberty and Human Nature in the Works of Faustus Socinus (...)
  • 22 Socinian ethics and soteriology were first explained in comprehensive terms in Faustus Socinus, De (...)
  • 23 See Samuel Przypkowski, Dissertatio de pace et concordia ecclesiae, Eleutheropoli [Amsterdam], Typi (...)

6The Trinitarian controversy of the late seventeenth century had deep and complex roots. Anti-Trinitarian, especially Socinian, ideas started to penetrate into England in the first half of the seventeenth century.17 Socinianism was an anti-Trinitarian and anti-Calvinist theological current named after the sixteenth-century Italian theologian Faustus Socinus. From the late 1570s to his death in 1604, Socinus lived among the mostly Polish and German members of the Minor Reformed Church of Poland, also called “Polish Brethren”.18 Socinus and his followers rejected belief in the Trinity as unscriptural and originating in the Platonic corruption of primitive Christianity. They considered the doctrine of the Trinity to be hardly deducible from clearly intelligible passages in the Scriptures, and they interpreted in non-Trinitarian terms the biblical verses commonly alleged to support the Trinitarian dogma.19 The Socinians judged the Trinitarian dogma not only unscriptural, but also illogical, in that it maintains the consubstantiality of the three divine persons. In their opinion, given Boethius’s equation of person with an “individual substance of a rational nature”, three persons cannot share one substance.20 Therefore, they saw Jesus as simply the Messiah – namely, as a mere man, charged by God with delivering a message of salvation hitherto unknown to humankind. They admitted that unassisted reason could grasp the law of nature. However, they considered the law of nature insufficient to salvation and even misleading in some respects, in that it disposed humankind to merely the preservation of earthly goods – not to eternal salvation. Thus, they maintained that true religious belief is unattainable by natural reason alone, and they regarded God’s Revealed Word as necessary to salvation.21 According to the Socinians, saving belief results from one’s free choice to accept the assistance of God’s grace, which one can know of through scriptural revelation. Adopting the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura and, hence, judging Scripture alone as their rule of faith, they argued that the Bible contains all information necessary to salvation. Accordingly, they believed that humanity could easily accept the teachings of the Gospel, including Christ’s moral precepts, as more convincing and rewarding than the law of nature. To the Socinians, Christ’s moral teachings indeed offer a better prospect than merely worldly benefits – the prospect of eternal life.22 This position was at the origin of the Socinians’ radical pacifism, advocacy of non-resistance, and endorsement of religious freedom and toleration.23 To the Socinians, the acceptance of God’s assisting grace was a matter of free choice, and every Christian had the right to pursue salvation through their independent reading of Scripture and moral conduct. Therefore, Socinus and his disciples rejected predestination, which they considered unscriptural and unreasonable. They held, instead, a moralist soteriology, which emphasized individual moral responsibility and, hence, entailed the denial of original sin and the rejection of the satisfaction theory of atonement.

  • 24 Best is the author of the first Socinian book in English: Paul Best, Mysteries Discovered, n. p. [L (...)
  • 25 On Puritan reactions to anti-Trinitarianism during the Civil War and Interregnum, see S. Mortimer, (...)
  • 26 Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum quos Unitarios vocant, 9 vols., Irenopoli – Eleutheropoli [Amsterdam] (...)
  • 27 Stephen Nye, A Brief History of the Unitarians, called also Socinians, London, s. n., 1687.
  • 28 The English word “Unitarian” first appeared in a book by a former student of Biddle: see Henry Hedw (...)

7Based on the above tenets, Socinian thought developed and spread in Protestant Europe during the seventeenth century, and had a strong influence on Paul Best and John Biddle, the major anti-Trinitarian writers of England during the Civil War and Interregnum. Whereas Best “imported” Socinianism to England after traveling in Continental Europe in the 1640s, Biddle inferred anti-Trinitarian conclusions from his own reading of the Bible. Later, he found his theological ideas consistent with the Socinians’ views on the Godhead and salvation.24 The emergence of Socinian views in Cromwell’s England provoked the reaction of various Puritan divines, such as Francis Cheynell and John Owen, and led to the persecution and imprisonment of Best and Biddle.25 After the collapse of the Protectorate and the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy, various Socinian writings, mostly printed in the Netherlands, such as the multi-volume Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum, circulated clandestinely in England.26 Starting in 1687, with A Brief History of the Unitarians, called also Socinians by the Church of England clergyman and anti-Trinitarian theologian Stephen Nye,27 many anti-Trinitarian books, including the five-volume series of Unitarian Tracts (1691-1703), were written and published in England, mainly thanks to funds provided by the wealthy merchant and philanthropist Thomas Firmin. The English Socinians, who, by that time, preferred to call themselves Unitarians,28 were encouraged to make their views public by the Royal Declaration of Indulgence of 1687, in which the Catholic King James II had extended religious liberty, in a failed attempt to draw support from the Nonconformists. The Trinitarian controversy was also triggered by problems inherent to the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. Protestants rejected the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation as unscriptural; but the Socinians argued that the Trinity too could not be derived from clear and intelligible passages in the Bible. This enabled Catholic polemicists, under the reign of James II, to insist on the necessity to ground biblical exegesis in ecclesiastical tradition. As Jason Vickers has explained:

  • 29 Jason E. Vickers, Invocation and Assent: The Making and Remaking of Trinitarian Theology, Grand Rap (...)

English Protestant theologians had three choices: they could (1) maintain their commitment to Scripture as the rule of faith and prove the Socinians were wrong about the Trinity; (2) maintain their commitment to Scripture as the rule of faith and admit the Socinians were right about the Trinity; or (3) acknowledge that only the Catholic rule of faith [i.e. ecclesiastical tradition] could secure the Trinity.29

8Whereas English Protestant theologians obviously chose the first of the three options listed by Vickers, Unitarians like Nye, Firmin, and their associates rejected both ecclesiastical tradition and the Trinitarian dogma, as we will see below. Thus, they described themselves as the truly “orthodox” Christians, in that they completely adhered to sola scriptura.

  • 30 The actual title of the so-called Toleration Act of 1689, which expresses the true meaning and goal (...)
  • 31 Stephen Nye remained the rector of the parish of Little Hormead, a small hamlet in Hertfordshire, f (...)
  • 32 In this article, I use the term “Anglican”, which came into general usage only in the latter half o (...)
  • 33 Justin Champion, The Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken: The Church of England and Its Enemies 1660-1730(...)
  • 34 B. Sirota, art. cit., p. 31.
  • 35 Ibid.

9The Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689, which led to the deposition of James II in favor of the Protestant monarchs William III and Mary II, did not put an end to the Trinitarian controversy. The so-called Toleration Act of 1689 still excluded non-Trinitarian Christians from toleration, while relieving Trinitarian Nonconformists from various civil disabilities.30 This did not deter several English anti-Trinitarians from publishing their ideas, although most of them, unlike Nye and a few others, preferred to remain anonymous, given also that some of the anti-Trinitarian writers who did not want to, or could not, remain anonymous paid a high price for siding with the Unitarian party. The ecclesiastical careers of some of them, like Nye and the Oxford scholar Arthur Bury, suffered from their advocacy of anti-Trinitarian or irenic ideas, whereas other Unitarian writers, such as the Arian William Freke, the creedal minimalist John Smith, and the Presbyterian divine Thomas Emlyn were even prosecuted and sentenced for their heterodox views.31 For several years in the late 1680s and 1690s, however, the Church of England and the political institutions were unable to contain the spread of anti-Trinitarian ideas. In fact, the Glorious Revolution brought about an atmosphere of uncertainty within the Anglican establishment, and hostility between latitudinarian clergymen and High Church divines.32 This atmosphere of uncertainty, which prevented the ecclesiastical and political authorities from organizing a concerted strategy to suppress Unitarianism, fueled the controversy. The Unitarians, with their focus on individual will and reason, led an attack (later continued and intensified by deists and freethinkers) on the politically demarcated boundaries of faith, in order to relocate the source of belief from public authority to the epistemological criteria of individual reason, conscience, and scholarship.33 Their revolt combined with what historian Brent Sirota has termed a “serious crisis occurring within ecclesiastical authority”.34 As Sirota has noted, “the Trinitarian controversy repeatedly exposed the absence of any Anglican consensus on the methods and instruments of enforcing orthodoxy, whether through the universities, Parliament, or convocation”.35 Moreover, the Commons’ refusal to renew the 1662 Licensing Act in 1695 made things relatively easier for the Unitarians and, on the other hand, encouraged the ecclesiastical and political authorities to undertake new measures to put an end to the Trinitarian controversy, as we will see in the conclusion of this article.

  • 36 Kristine L. Haugen, “Transformations of the Trinity Doctrine in English Scholarship: From the Histo (...)
  • 37 S. Nye, op. cit., p. 24. See, also, Anon., Brief Notes on the Creed of St. Athanasius, n. p., s. n. (...)
  • 38 S. Nye, op. cit., p. 24.
  • 39 Ibid., p. 32-33; Stephen Nye, A Defence of the Brief History of the Unitarians, London, s. n., 1691 (...)

10At first, the controversy revolved around what Kristine Haugen has defined “the question whether the Anglican doctrine of the Trinity could be historically justified – whether it could be traced back, that is, to the earliest period of Christianity”.36 Like Best and Biddle half a century earlier, the English Unitarians of the late seventeenth century attempted to prove that the Trinitarian dogma was illogical, unscriptural, and originating in the corruption of ancient Christianity by pagan, especially Platonic, philosophies. Nye and his associates claimed that only the Father is God, while the Son is God’s messenger, and the Holy Spirit is a personification of God’s power. They judged the Trinity “absurd, and contrary both to Reason and to itself, and therefore not only false, but impossible”.37 In this regard, Nye also noted that the Scriptures always refer to God in the singular.38 According to Nye, even Christ never corrected the Jews in this respect, for he always talked of God as one person, not three, and he always ascribed wisdom, infallibility, and perfection only to God the Father. This is why the first Christians, also called Nazarenes, did not hold Trinitarian beliefs.39 These considerations led the Unitarians to argue that the Trinitarian dogma should not be one of the tenets of the Church of England, or, at least, it should not be one of the fundamental dogmas forced on all members of the Church of England.

  • 40 W. Freke, op. cit.
  • 41 Zwicker played a crucial role in popularizing the view that the first Christians, also known as Naz (...)

11Nevertheless, despite the Unitarians’ aversion to the Trinitarian dogma, the Unitarian front was all but homogeneous. Those who, in the late seventeenth century, wrote against the Trinity and the pagan corruption of Christianity had different views regarding the fundamentals of the Christian religion, the nature of the Godhead, and ecclesiological matters. Although their enemies generally labeled all of them “Socinians”, some of them held theological ideas different to Socinus’s and the Continental Socinians’ theories. This is the case, for instance, of the above said William Freke, who, as an Arian, believed in Christ’s pre-existence to his human birth40 – a concept foreign to Socinian Christology, in which the Messiah is a mere man. Even those who agreed with Socinian theology, soteriology, and ethics further elaborated on the history of early Christianity and the origins of the Trinitarian dogma. For instance, Nye himself, when claiming that the first Christians did not have Trinitarian beliefs and that the Trinitarian dogma resulted from the Platonic corruption of early Christianity, borrowed not only from Socinian authors – especially from the German physician Daniel Zwicker – but also from the Arian Christoph Sand, Arminians like Grotius, Curcellaeus, and Episcopius, and the Jesuit Denis Petau.41 Briefly, late seventeenth-century English Unitarianism was a further step in the development of early modern anti-Trinitarianism. As historian John Marshall has noted:

  • 42 John Marshall, “Locke, Socinianism, ‘Socinianism’, and Unitarianism”, in M. A. Stewart (ed.), Engli (...)

In the late 1680s and 1690s, many of the Unitarians themselves wished to deny that they were the followers of any particular theologian or theological system, to accent their fidelity to Scriptural teaching on the unity of God, to emphasize that they followed Scripture or the early Church, and to de-emphasize the differences among themselves. Many agreed with some elements of the positions of Socinus or Arius, but combined these with elements of patristic thought, or with elements of Arminian thought, in such a way that they rejected some significant elements of Socinus’s or Arius’s thought. For some or all of these reasons, they usually called themselves “Unitarians”, rather than Socinians or Arians.42

  • 43 Herbert Croft, The Naked Truth, London, s. n., 1675; A. Bury, op. cit.; J. Smith, op. cit.
  • 44 J. Marshall, art. cit., p. 114.

12Moreover, some of those who joined the Unitarian cause, such as Arthur Bury and John Smith, were actually creedal minimalists. Following the example of Bishop Herbert Croft’s The Naked Truth (1675), they endorsed the adoption of only a few fundamentals of Christianity in the name of religious concord, toleration, and peace.43 A conciliatory and irenic attitude indeed characterized the works of most Unitarian writers, as Marshall has pointed out: “For many Unitarians […] this desire for conciliation, tolerationism, and stress on individuals acting morally and interpreting Scripture for themselves by seeking its plain meanings, was more important than their specific positions or shading of positions on the Trinity”.44

  • 45 William Sherlock, An Answer to a Late Dialogue between a New Catholick Convert and a Protestant, Lo (...)
  • 46 William Sherlock, A Vindication of the Doctrine of the Holy and Ever Blessed Trinity, London, Roger (...)
  • 47 John Wallis, the Savilian professor of geometry at Oxford, criticized Sherlock in eight Letters wri (...)
  • 48 John Edwards, Theologia Reformata, 2 vols., London, Lawrence, 1713, vol. 1, p. 282-290. On Edwards’ (...)
  • 49 P. Dixon, op. cit., p. 125.

13While the anti-Trinitarians tried to overcome their divergences and find some common ground, the Trinitarian party became more and more divided during the controversy. The foremost apologists of the Trinity soon found themselves entangled in the difficulties of refuting the Unitarian’s historical and philosophical objections to the Trinitarian dogma. After some initial attempts by William Sherlock, Edward Stillingfleet, and Thomas Tenison to defend the Trinitarian dogma through historical-critical methods,45 Trinitarian polemicists realized that historical arguments in favor of the Trinity were hard to prove and easy to ridicule. Therefore, several Trinitarian theologians, such as Sherlock, Robert South, and John Wallis, abandoned historical narratives and, instead, had recourse to metaphysical speculation. These Trinitarian apologists attempted to elucidate the doctrine of the Trinity in philosophical, logically sound terms. They employed Platonic, Aristotelian, or Cartesian concepts, and formulated divergent views of the Godhead. However, once the Trinitarians accepted to consider the Trinity no more as a mystery, they had to face difficulties and contradictions that eventually led them to clash with each other, thus further exposing the weaknesses of the Trinitarian doctrine. The most controversial book in the Trinitarian camp was Sherlock’s Vindication of the Trinity (1690). Drawing on Cartesian philosophy, Sherlock described the three divine persons as three distinct “minds”, self-conscious and reciprocally conscious of one another. To Sherlock, the essential unity of the Godhead lies in the mutual consciousness of the three divine persons, which “do by an internal sensation […] feel each other”.46 In refuting Sherlock’s thesis, which was widely perceived as “tritheistic” (namely, as implying that the three persons of the Trinity were three distinct deities), the Oxford mathematician John Wallis and the Calvinistic theologian Robert South argued that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were three manifestations, aspects, or modes of existence of the same divine substance.47 Whereas Sherlock repeated and attempted to clarify his views in replying to South’s attack, Wallis and South were not exempt from criticism, as the Calvinistic divine John Edwards accused both of them of having reduced the three persons of the Trinity to mere “modes”. Edwards reasserted the idea that the three persons of the Trinity are “three distinct subsistences”, which he described as “not only modally but really distinguished” – an idea that nevertheless, as Edwards himself admitted, could be labeled as “tritheistic”.48 In the end, as historian Philip Dixon has observed with some irony, “there appeared to be as many Trinities as there were writers”.49

Tindal’s and Toland’s writings of the mid-1690s

  • 50 Stephen Nye, Considerations on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity, London, s. n., 1693 (...)

14The clash between Trinitarian divines of different convictions enabled Nye and other Unitarians to stress the inconsistencies of the Trinitarians’ attempts at distinguishing between “person” and “substance” in Godtalk and, thus, at explaining the existence of three consubstantial divine persons. Using both logical and historical arguments in Considerations on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity (1693), Nye blamed his Trinitarian enemies for having revived old heresies, such as tritheism and modalism (i.e. the theory that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are simply three modes, aspects, or manifestations of God). He accused Sherlock of being a tritheist who believed in three distinct deities, while he claimed that Wallis and South were not truly Trinitarian, because their views on the Trinity inclined toward modalism.50 Tindal too, in his Letter to the Reverend the Clergy, distinguished between “Nominal Trinitarians”, such as the “modalist” Wallis and South, and “Real Trinitarians”, such as the “tritheist” Sherlock. According to Tindal, the controversy was caused by the ambiguity of the term “person” in the context of Godtalk. He argued that the Trinitarians themselves did not know what exactly could be a Trinity consisting of three consubstantial, coeternal, and coequal persons. This is why, in Trinitarian theology, the Trinity was traditionally considered to be “above reason”, and this is why Sherlock’s, South’s, and Wallis’s attempts to provide “rational” explanations of the mystery of the Trinity proved flawed and perplexing. However, according to Tindal, it is unreasonable and impious to require humanity to believe in something incomprehensible:

  • 51 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 3.

A Man that is obliged to believe a thing, must first know what it is before he can believe it. […] One can neither affirm or deny, believe or disbelieve a Proposition that he does not understand; it is impossible to assert somewhat of nothing, and what he has no Idea of is nothing to him. […] We are not required to believe more of God than we can conceive of him, nor is it possible, because Belief is nothing else but the supposing the Idea’s [sic] we have of anything are true; and where we have no Idea’s there is no Subject for us to exercise our Belief upon. […] If any thing be so far a Mystery as to be hid from Human Understanding, it is impossible to believe it.51

  • 52 Ibid., p. 35. On Tindal’s opposition to mysteries in religion, which characterized all his scholarl (...)
  • 53 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 137.
  • 54 Ibid., p. 77.

15Tindal concluded that “Mystery can never be part of Religion, because it cannot tend to the Honour of God, since it is what we know of God, not what we do not know, that makes us honour him”.52 In Christianity Not Mysterious, Toland too refused to believe anything of which he did not have a clear and distinct idea. He argued that the “Subject of Faith” must be intelligible to all and must be built upon “very strict Reasoning from Experience”.53 Therefore, he opposed the Scholastic distinction, also endorsed by Locke, between things “contrary to reason” and things “above reason”, and he declared that “there is nothing in the Gospel Contrary to Reason, Nor Above it”.54 Briefly, both Tindal and Toland drew on the Lockean view of ideas as originating from sensorial perception, but their rejection of things “above reason” distinguished their theories from Locke’s way of ideas.

  • 55 John Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, ed. Peter H. Nidditch, Oxford, Clarendon Press (...)

16In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Locke made a distinction between reason and revelation, given that there are “many Things wherein we have very imperfect Notions, or none at all; and other Things, of whose past, present, or future Existence, by the natural Use of our Faculties, we can have no Knowledge at all”.55 Thus, human beings should avail themselves of both reason and revelation:

  • 56 Ibid., IV.xix.4, p. 698.

Reason is natural Revelation, whereby the eternal Father of Light and Fountain of all Knowledge, communicates to Mankind that portion of Truth which he has laid within the reach of their natural Faculties: Revelation is natural Reason enlarged by a new set of Discoveries communicated by God immediately, which Reason vouches the Truth of, by the Testimony and Proofs it gives, that they come from God.56

  • 57 On Locke’s distinction between original and traditional revelation, see ibid., IV.xviii.3, p. 690. (...)
  • 58 Ibid., IV.xviii.9, p. 695.
  • 59 Ibid.

17Revelation – especially “traditional”, namely scriptural, revelation57 – comes in where unassisted reason cannot reach. Revelation indeed discloses several things “whose Truth our Mind, by its natural Faculties and Notions, cannot judge” – things that we, therefore, ought to accept as “above Reason”.58 To Locke, things “above reason” revealed in Scripture are the proper “Matter of Faith”.59 Conversely, already in the mid-1690s, Tindal and Toland conceived of unassisted, natural reason as the ultimate criterion of knowledge. In their views, that which is inconsistent with the criteria of natural reason must be rejected. As Tindal put it:

  • 60 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 33.

Whatsoever God has designed we should believe, he has made us capable of having clear and distinct Idea’s of: But tho it should be granted that we may have false Conceptions and Idea’s of things, yet the utmost we can do, is to believe or not believe those Idea’s; where they fail, there our Belief must end. God has set the same limits to our Belief as to our Perceptions; and Belief belong to us as we are rational Creatures: what is above our Reason to apprehend, is also above our Belief.60

  • 61 J. Locke, Essay, op. cit., IV.xviii.8, p. 694.
  • 62 Ibid., IV.xviii.7-9, p. 694-695.
  • 63 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 21.
  • 64 James A. T. Lancaster, “From Matters of Faith to Matters of Fact: The Problem of Priestcraft in Ear (...)

18As to Toland, in Christianity Not Mysterious, he concurred with Locke’s claim that “it still belongs to Reason, to judge of the Truth of [a proposition] being a Revelation, and of the signification of the Words, wherein it is delivered”.61 Nevertheless, Locke observed that unassisted reason was unable to attain certain knowledge, and could only yield probability, in a number of matters, including revelations contained in the Bible. Thus, he viewed faith as assent to probable matters of fact.62 Toland too admitted that “in Matters of common Practice [we] must of necessity sometimes admit Probability to supply the Defect of Demonstration”.63 However, as James Lancaster has pointed out, Toland “was unwilling to admit probability in matters of fact wherein faith was the intended consequence”.64 This was a significant point of divergence from Locke, as Lancaster has noted:

  • 65 Ibid.

Toland differed from Locke in one fundamental respect, and this was his belief that the matters of faith revealed in the Bible could be known as matters of fact with demonstrable certainty. Where Locke argued that assent could properly be called “faith” because it was assent to probable matters of fact, Toland argued that assent should only be given to matters of fact that attained the level of the intuitive, not those which were merely probable.65

19As Toland explained in Christianity Not Mysterious:

  • 66 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 17-18.

When all these Rules concur in any Matter of Fact, I take it then for Demonstration, which is nothing else but Irresistible Evidence from proper Proofs: But where any of these Conditions are wanting, the thing is uncertain, or, at best, but probable, which, with me, are not very different.66

  • 67 Ibid., p. 139.

20Therefore, Toland argued that “an implicite Assent to any thing above Reason […] contradicts the Ends of Religion, the Nature of Man, and the Goodness and Wisdom of God”.67

  • 68 Following the publication of The Reasonableness of Christianity, Edwards attacked this theological (...)
  • 69 See John Locke, “Adversaria Theologica 94”, in John Locke, Writings on Religion, ed. Victor Nuovo, (...)
  • 70 On this point, see G. A. J. Rogers, “John Locke: Conservative Radical”, in Roger D. Lund (ed.), The (...)
  • 71 Locke, Reasonableness, op. cit., p. 109. On Locke’s theology and Christology, see John Marshall, Jo (...)
  • 72 Stillingfleet’s points against Locke are in the tenth and last chapter of his book: see Edward Stil (...)
  • 73 J. Locke, Essay, op. cit., II.xxiii.1-6, p. 295-299.
  • 74 Ibid., II.xxvii, p. 328-348.
  • 75 John Locke, A Letter to the Right Reverend Edward, Lord Bishop of Worcester, concerning Some Passag (...)
  • 76 Ibid.
  • 77 Ibid., p. 30.

21Concerning Locke’s position on the Trinity, in The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695), he abstained from including belief in the Trinity among the fundamentals of Christianity. Moreover, he always refrained from affirming or denying the Trinity, even when pressured to do so, in the second half of the 1690s, by John Edwards, who judged the Reasonableness a Socinian writing, and Bishop Stillingfleet, who claimed that Locke’s agnostic account of substance and emphasis on “clear and distinct ideas” supported the anti-Trinitarian cause.68 Whereas Locke examined Trinitological issues in some of his private writings, particularly in the manuscript Adversaria Theologica,69 he kept an obstinate public silence on the Trinity; and he did so not only for prudential reasons, namely to avoid troubles with the authorities. In fact, he refused to become involved in the Trinitarian controversy because he deemed it inappropriate, and even immoral, to fuel divisive disputes among Christians about non-fundamental, and hence controversial, doctrines.70 To Locke, the only fundamental articles of the Christian religion, which one ought to accept in order to become a Christian, were belief in Christ as the Messiah, repentance for our sins, and obedience to the divine moral law.71 Nevertheless, in A Discourse in Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity (1697), Stillingfleet argued that Locke’s rethinking, in An Essay concerning Human Understanding, of the concepts of substance, nature, and person posed a serious threat to the Trinitarian dogma.72 Locke’s way of ideas indeed denied that we could get behind ideas to things themselves, in that Locke’s Essay defined substance as an unknown substratum or support of qualities.73 This led Locke to formulate the concepts of nature and person in non-substantialist, nominalist terms and to locate personal identity in consciousness, not in an alleged personal substance or essence.74 Stillingfleet believed that Locke’s agnostic and nominalist approach to these concepts had provided the anti-Trinitarians, and especially the author of Christianity Not Mysterious (i.e. Toland, whom neither Stillingfleet nor Locke ever mentioned by name during their dispute), with a formidable weapon to question the Trinity. According to Stillingfleet, Locke had rejected the traditional, Scholastic, essentialist understanding of substance, nature, and person, which the latitudinarian bishop considered crucial to affirm the consubstantiality of the three divine persons. Moreover, Stillingfleet argued that Locke’s view that certainty must be based merely on “clear and distinct ideas” had enabled Toland to dismiss the Trinity and other mysteries of Christianity as unintelligible and, hence, unacceptable. During his dispute with Stillingfleet, Locke explained that he had not attempted to “discard substance out of the reasonable part of the world”.75 He claimed that he had simply refused to affirm that we could know “substance”, which is, nevertheless, still part of the reasonable world, given that human reason supposes substance as a substratum.76 Moreover, whereas Locke maintained an obstinate silence on the Trinity, he observed that he, unlike Toland, had not denied mysteries in religion. Therefore, in Locke’s opinion, Toland had made an ill use of the way of ideas.77

  • 78 Stephen Nye, “The Unreasonableness of the Doctrine of the Trinity”, in A Second Collection of Tract (...)

22Briefly, Locke’s position on the subject of mysteries in religion diverged significantly from the views expressed by Toland and by his contemporary Unitarians as well. According to the Unitarians, as Nye wrote in 1692, the Bible nowhere maintains that the Trinity is “an unspeakable Mystery, a Mystery that ought to be adored with a profound Humility, and cannot be explained”.78 On this matter, Nye stated:

  • 79 Stephen Nye, “The Trinitarian Scheme of Religion”, in Second Collection, op. cit., separate paginat (...)

There is no Mystery at all in any of the Properties or Attributes of God. They are no less clear in themselves, than they are evidently deduced from the Excellence of his Works, and the Methods of his Providence. The Mystery never lies in the Attribute or Property, but in the addition made to it by fanciful Men.79

  • 80 Besides Tindal’s two tracts on the Trinity and Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious, see Matthew Ti (...)
  • 81 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 32.
  • 82 Ibid., p. 35.
  • 83 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 146.
  • 84 Ibid., p. 163.
  • 85 See Edward Herbert of Cherbury, Pagan Religion: A Translation of De religione gentilium, ed. John A (...)
  • 86 See John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel, London, Tonson, 1681; Robert Howard, The History of Religi (...)
  • 87 J. Locke, Essay, op. cit., III.x.2, p. 491.
  • 88 Locke, Reasonableness, op. cit., p. 143-144, 161-163. Concerning the theme of priestcraft in the wo (...)

23Such “fanciful men” were obviously the members of a deceitful priestly class who had corrupted Christianity. Hostility to priestly frauds is another point in common between the English Unitarians and Tindal and Toland, given that these two deists, in their writings of the mid-1690s and in their later works as well, frequently stigmatized priestcraft.80 In A Letter to the Reverend the Clergy, Tindal described belief in mysteries as resulting from impositions by “the Orthodox [who] upon all occasions thunder it from their Pulpits, that Matters of Faith are above Reason”.81 However, according to Tindal, these men actually did not know what they were talking about, when they imposed belief in mysteries on others: “Mystery has been the Pretence, by which some Men for so many Ages have solemnly repeated Propositions as necessary to Salvation, which they could no more apprehend than a round Square, or a Mountain without a Valley”.82 Toland was even sharper than Tindal in denouncing priestcraft and its effects. When considering miracles in Christianity Not Mysterious, he condemned the “Credulity of the People [which] makes ʼem a Merchandize to their Priests”.83 Moreover, he contended that “Christianity became mysterious […] through the craft and ambition of Priests and Philosophers, degenerate into meer Paganism”.84 These points, especially the “degeneration” of early Christianity into paganism, were among the leitmotifs of Socinian and Unitarian polemics. However, hostility to priestcraft was not exclusively characteristic of Socinianism and Unitarianism. In seventeenth-century England, deists such as Herbert of Cherbury in De religione gentilium (1663) and Charles Blount in Great Is Diana of the Ephesians (1680) argued that natural religion had been corrupted, in ancient times, by priestly frauds, which had led to systems of doctrine founded on abstruse dogmas and supported by oppressive ecclesiastical institutions.85 A virulent attack on priestcraft is also present in the poetic political satire Absalom and Achitophel (1681) by John Dryden, whose brother-in-law, Sir Robert Howard, made an attempt, in his History of Religion (1694), to explain “how religion has been corrupted, almost from the beginning, by priestcraft”.86 Locke’s works too present several points about priestcraft. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, he stated that “the several Sects of Philosophy and Religion” had magnified the natural difficulties of the use of language by coining “insignificant Terms”, thus “either affecting something singular, and out of the way of common apprehensions, or to support some strange Opinions, or cover some Weakness of their Hypothesis”.87 Moreover, in The Reasonableness of Christianity, Locke observed that ecclesiastical tradition, priestcraft, and power politics had negatively affected the human capacity to grasp and respect the law of nature, because the defects of human nature make human beings prone to be misled by both their own mistakes and priestly frauds.88 Thus, Tindal’s and Toland’s attacks on priestcraft in their writings of the mid-1690s cannot be considered as typical of a Unitarian rhetorical strategy. These attacks are, in fact, consistent with the essentially deistic views that characterize these writings and that Tindal and Toland further elaborated in their later works.

  • 89 M. Tindal, Christianity, op. cit., p. 5.

24Tindal explained his religion of nature, in detailed and thorough terms, in his masterpiece of 1730, Christianity as Old as the Creation. In this book, he wrote: “If God designed all Mankind shou’d at all times know, what he wills them to know, believe, profess, and practice; and has given them no other Means for this, but the Use of Reason; Reason, human Reason, must then be that Means”.89 In the same book, he clarified:

  • 90 Ibid., p. 11.

By Natural Religion I understand the Belief of the Existence of a God, and the Sense and Practice of those Duties which result from the Knowledge we, by our Reason, have of him and his Perfections; and of ourselves, and our own Imperfections; and of the relation we stand in to him and our Fellow-Creatures: so that the Religion of Nature takes in every thing that is founded on the Reason and Nature of things.90

  • 91 On Tindal’s views on God, humanity, and the world, see Diego Lucci and Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth, “‘Go (...)

25Tindal’s religion of nature is based on belief in a wise, benevolent, and almighty creator who, far from producing mysteries in religion, has provided humanity with the means to understand both the laws of nature and the laws of morality. To Tindal, God governs the universe in an impartial way – that is, without interfering in human affairs, and without any need to suspend the order of nature and, hence, to perform miracles.91 Briefly, Tindal’s emphasis on reason as the supreme judge in religious matters, and his insistence on the oneness and transcendence of God, in his two tracts on the Trinity of the mid-1690s, prefigured the deistic religion of nature that informed his later work.

  • 92 J. Toland, Letters to Serena, op. cit., letters IV-V, p. 131-239. On Toland’s monism, see Paolo Cas (...)
  • 93 J. Toland, Letters to Serena, op. cit., letters I-III, p. 1-130; John Toland, “Origines Judaicae, s (...)
  • 94 J. Toland, Nazarenus, op. cit., p. 135-165.
  • 95 On Richard Simon’s impact on English heterodox thinkers, see Justin Champion, “Père Richard Simon a (...)
  • 96 Benedict de Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, trans. Michael Silverthorne and Jonathan I. Is (...)
  • 97 For a thorough analysis of Toland’s borrowings from Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus in Chr (...)
  • 98 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 150.
  • 99 John Toland, Tetradymus. Containing: I) Hodegus; II) Clidophorus; III) Hypatia; IV) Mangoneutes, Lo (...)
  • 100 B. de Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, op. cit., p. 81-96.
  • 101 Socinus expounded this view of Christ’s miracles when providing his proof of the divine authority o (...)
  • 102 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 49.
  • 103 B. de Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, op. cit., p. 97-117.
  • 104 For a concise but excellent analysis of Toland’s exegetical, philological, and historical-critical (...)
  • 105 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 41-42.
  • 106 Ibid., p. 40.
  • 107 I. Leask, art. cit., p. 63.

26Concerning Toland, in the 1700s he formulated monistic, immanentist views, entailing the idea that matter is inherently active and, thus, the laws of nature are unchangeable.92 Moreover, in his mature works, Toland gave naturalistic interpretations of the history of religion, which he considered as the result of socio-cultural, political, merely human dynamics.93 In Nazarenus, written in 1709-1710, but published in 1718, Toland depicted primitive Christianity as mainly a moral doctrine and simply the intermediate phase (between Mosaic Judaism and original Islam) in the development of the monotheistic tradition, which he considered essentially based on the law of nature.94 In his analysis of the history of Christianity and other religions, and in his biblical criticism, he employed both the anti-Trinitarians’ Christian primitivism, which entailed a rejection of ecclesiastical tradition as corrupting true Christianity, and the views of Christian exegetes like the seventeenth-century Catholic priest Richard Simon, who called attention to the obscurities and interpolations in the biblical text.95 Furthermore, Toland always kept in mind Spinoza’s view of the Bible as a collection of writings relating the history of the ancient Hebrews and teaching few, simple, reasonable moral precepts.96 As I have said above, several historians have distinguished Toland’s philosophical and religious views in his mature works from the “Socinian” or “Lockean” positions expressed in Christianity Not Mysterious. However, an accurate analysis of Christianity Not Mysterious shows that this treatise is actually a deistic work, as it presents significant divergences not only from Locke’s philosophical and religious thought, but also from Socinian and Unitarian theology and biblical criticism, which were based on the acceptance of the divine authority of Scripture. Christianity Not Mysterious is indeed indebted, above all, to Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus.97 It was Spinoza’s Tractatus that inspired Toland’s denial of the supernatural in Christianity Not Mysterious. In this book, Toland Spinozistically portrayed miracles as events in themselves “intelligible and possible, […] produc’d according to the Laws of Nature”, although difficult to comprehend because of their rarity; and he concluded that there is “no Miracle at all”.98 This argument, which he further developed in his later works, especially in Hodegus (written around 1710, but published in 1720),99 is in line with Spinoza’s view of miracles as events having merely natural, albeit difficult to understand, causes.100 Conversely, the Socinians and Locke regarded Christ’s miracles as confirming his Messianic mission, given also their firm belief in the divine authority of Scripture.101 Toland questioned biblical miracles not only in his later works of biblical hermeneutics and religious history, but also in Christianity Not Mysterious. In this book, he indeed maintained that there is no “different Rule to be follow’d in the Interpretation of Scripture from what is common to all other Books”.102 In other words, he reduced the Bible to just another book. This is clearly another principle that Toland borrowed from Spinoza’s Tractatus, particularly from its chapter 7, in which Spinoza detailed the hermeneutical tools and methods to apply in biblical interpretation.103 In this regard, both Christianity Not Mysterious and the Tractatus theologico-politicus denied any special hermeneutical status to the Bible, which both Toland and Spinoza read as any other text, thus employing exegetical, philological, and historical-critical methods developed since the Age of Renaissance in the analysis of classical texts.104 Finally, Spinoza’s unprejudiced approach to the biblical text played a role in leading Toland to deny that the Gospel is in any sense above reason – a denial that, as we have seen above, distinguished Toland’s methods from Locke’s epistemology and biblical hermeneutics. In Christianity Not Mysterious, Toland actually argued that any revelation, either human or divine, must be consistent with human reason in order to be believed.105 Accordingly, he described (reliable) revelations as mere “means of information”106 about notions and facts comprehensible to natural reason, which is the highest judge of the contents of any revelation. This approach is definitely in line with Spinoza’s consideration of the biblical text in the cold light of reason. Briefly, I agree with Ian Leask that Christianity Not Mysterious was “profoundly marked, thematically, methodologically, and in terms of ‘operative principle’, by Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise”.107

27Spinoza’s hermeneutics also had an impact on Tindal’s approach to the Bible in the mid-1690s, although Tindal, in his two tracts on the Trinity, paid scarce attention to Scripture as a source of knowledge regarding God’s nature and attributes. Tindal preferred to expose the inconsistencies of the Trinitarian dogma through logical analysis and, thus, he made reference to the Bible only occasionally in these two tracts. His approach to theological issues in the mid-1690s was in line with his later works, especially Christianity as Old as the Creation, in which, as I have said above, he argued that human beings are able to understand God’s nature and attributes, the laws of nature, and the laws of morality through natural reason alone. In A Letter to the Reverend the Clergy, Tindal’s confidence in the powers of natural reason led him to subject biblical revelation and ecclesiastical tradition to rational scrutiny with an argument that Spinoza would definitely have approved. Although Tindal expressed his reasoning in quite a lengthy way, it is worth reading the whole paragraph he devoted to this issue in order to appreciate all its points:

  • 108 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 34.

We cannot be as sure of any thing we receive by Tradition, as we are of those things God has discovered to us by original Revelation, I mean those things of which he has given us clear and distinct Idea’s: we cannot be so certain as we are of these, that God so long since revealed his Will to such Persons, or that they did not mistake their Fancies and Dreams for Revelation, or that they did rightly apprehend what was spoken to them, and that it has been exactly and religiously delivered down to us at so great a distance without any Alterations or Additions; or that we apprehend it in the right sense, considering moral things are capable of receiving vastly different Interpretations, and the Divine Speech as well as Human is subject to divers Senses; especially since we are so little acquainted with the particular Phrases and peculiar Idioms of the Tongues the Scripture was written in, and those Customs among the Eastern Nations it so much alludes to. To which an hundred things might be added, as the different Readings, the different Significations of the same Words, and even the different Pointings, which alone may strangely vary the Sense. But the innumerable Sects of Christians that so widely differ about the meaning of the plainest Texts, sufficiently shew how subject we are to mistake; therefore to prefer Tradition before our clearest Idea’s, is to prefer probable before certain, Belief before Knowledg, that which we possibly may be mistaken in, before what we are most certain of; which would leave no difference between Truth and Falshood, no means of Credible and Incredible; which would destroy all the Principles and Foundation of that Knowledg God has given us, and render all our Faculties useless, and wholly confound the most excellent Part of his Workmanship, our Understanding. In short, if we admit not that there is a due Capacity in the Soul of Man to judg soundly concerning Matters of Religion, we do entirely root out the Grounds of all Religion, we make our selves meer Machines, uncapable of Vertue and Vice, of Good and Evil. And if, on the other side, we admit the Adequateness of our Capacities, and the Rectitude of our Judgments in these Matters, and at the same time pretend to maintain the Truth of the Christian Religion, we must allow there is an exact Conformity between the Principles of the one and of the other, for there can be no Disagreement in Truth; and if Christianity were found contradictory to any thing the Light of Nature makes manifest, or should require of us to believe any thing of which we could form no Idea’s, or none but contradictory ones, we should be forced so far to acknowledg it faulty and false; and therefore if any Expression in Scripture seems to require the Belief of any such, we must interpret such Expressions in a figurative Sense.108

  • 109 B. de Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, op. cit., p. 97-117.
  • 110 Ibid., p. 13-26.

28In this long paragraph, Tindal employs the Lockean concept of “clear and distinct ideas”, but he does so contra Locke, in that he casts doubt on the reliability of biblical passages that are not fully consonant with natural reason. His points are similar to Spinoza’s instructions in chapter 7 of the Tractatus. In this chapter, Spinoza recommends to investigate the history of the composition of the Bible, to consider the circumstances that influenced the writing and transmission of the biblical texts, to take into account the possible mistakes and additions made during the transmission process, and to study in depth the languages of the Bible and their rhetorical figures.109 Similarly, Tindal endorses the employment of a non-literal, allegorical method of biblical interpretation, as Spinoza too does in chapter 1 of the Tractatus.110

  • 111 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 25; M. Tindal, Reflections, op. cit., p. 27.
  • 112 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 46.
  • 113 J. Toland, Nazarenus, op. cit., p. 165, 179.
  • 114 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 4-5, 9, 14-15, 28-29, 31.
  • 115 Faustus Socinus, De Iesu Christi invocatione disputatio, n. p. [Krakow], Typis Alexii Rodecii, 1595

29Finally, that both Tindal’s and Toland’s writings of the mid-1690s subjected the Scriptures to the cold light of unprejudiced reason and scholarship, and thus depicted revelation as secondary in comparison with natural reason, is also shown by the ways in which these two authors spoke of Christ in these writings. They not only rejected the Trinitarian dogma, but also abstained from talking of Jesus as the Messiah, whereas the Socinians, the English Unitarians, and Locke considered belief in Christ as the Messiah a fundamental tenet of Christianity. In his Letter to the Reverend the Clergy and Reflections, Tindal agreed with the Unitarians’ rejection of Christ’s incarnation and satisfaction as illogical and unscriptural doctrines. However, he refrained from talking of “the Man Christ” as someone charged by God with communicating a message of salvation hitherto unknown to humankind.111 Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious was even more unambiguous in portraying Jesus as a man who had taught “Doctrines and Precepts [that] agree with Natural Reason, and our own ordinary Ideas”.112 He further developed this theory in his later works, especially in Nazarenus. In this book, he argued that Jesus’ teachings had simply revived the law of nature – a law previously reaffirmed, in its essential principles, by Moses, and accessible to natural reason.113 Briefly, Tindal and Toland never endorsed the Socinian, Unitarian, and Lockean view of Christ as the Messiah – namely, as the man who had revealed saving truth, superseding (as Socinians and Unitarians believed), or complementing and completing (as Locke thought) the law of nature and making salvation possible. According to both Tindal and Toland, the law of nature, comprehensible to unassisted reason, was enough to live a righteous life and, at least in Tindal’s philosophy, to achieve salvation. This is why Tindal’s Letter to the Reverend the Clergy denied Jesus any sort of worship, declaring it idolatrous to adore anything or anyone else but the Supreme Being, and considering it “polytheistic” to worship three divine persons.114 Conversely, Socinus and most of his followers argued for “invocation” of Christ in worship, given his Messianic mission.115 Moreover, neither Tindal’s and Toland’s works of the mid-1690s, nor their later writings ever asserted belief in Christ’s resurrection, whereas the Continental Socinians, the English Unitarians, and Locke believed in Christ’s resurrection, exaltation, and Second Coming. Finally, Tindal and Toland never attached any importance to the Holy Spirit, which, conversely, the Socinians’ anti-Trinitarian theology described as God’s power.

Conclusion

30There are remarkable differences between Tindal’s and Toland’s works of the mid-1690s and the Socinian tradition of thought, which was essentially at the basis of English Unitarianism, although the English Unitarians also drew on other theological traditions, and further developed the discourse of anti-Trinitarianism. Moreover, Tindal’s two tracts on the Trinity and Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious diverge, in significant ways, from Locke’s way of ideas, which underlies his religious thought. These differences and divergences can be noticed especially when examining Tindal’s and Toland’s reflections on scriptural authority and the relationship between reason and revelation in their writings of the mid-1690s. Therefore, it is incorrect to consider Tindal’s tracts on the Trinity and Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious to be mere contributions to the Unitarian cause during the Trinitarian controversy of the late seventeenth century, as most contemporaries believed and as several historians have argued. In fact, Tindal’s and Toland’s works of the mid-1690s were already deistic (and not Socinian or Lockean) in their methods, objectives, and contents. These works present deistic ideas concerning the primacy of natural reason over scriptural revelation, the denial of mysteries in religion, and the view that primitive Christianity was fundamentally a moral doctrine. In many respects, these works prefigured further developments in their authors’ deistic philosophies. Christianity Not Mysterious in particular was a turning point in the theological debate in Enlightenment England, in that it contributed to switch the focus of the debate from the anti-Trinitarian challenge to the deist threat.

  • 116 Stephen Nye, The Agreement of the Unitarians with the Catholick Church, London, s. n., 1697; Stephe (...)
  • 117 On the Newtonians’ Arianism, see Maurice Wiles, Archetypal Heresy: Arianism through the Centuries, (...)
  • 118 On this issue, see R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 82-108; J. Champion, Pillars, op. cit., p. 99-132.

31Besides a gradual shift in attention among Anglican theologians toward more dangerous menaces to Christianity, such as deism and atheism (which were indeed the main polemical targets of the Boyle Lectures), other events contributed to the waning of the Trinitarian controversy. The aspect of this controversy that most bothered the ecclesiastical and political authorities was not so much the Unitarians’ criticism of the Trinitarian doctrine as the disagreement among Trinitarian polemicists, whose conflicting views on the Trinity caused deep embarrassment in the Church of England. Therefore, in 1696, Archbishop Thomas Tenison persuaded King William III to issue a Royal Injunction that forbade discussion of the Trinity in terms different from those contained in the Scriptures, the Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. One year later, the Parliament passed a Blasphemy Act that declared the denial of the Trinity by Christians, along with other forms of “blasphemy”, to be a crime. Nevertheless, these measures did not put an abrupt end to the controversy, which waned only gradually in the late 1690s-early 1700s, when the Unitarians’ position toward their opponents became more conciliatory.116 Moreover, the Trinitarian controversy provided fertile ground for the spread, in the following years, of anti-Trinitarian ideas among several prominent intellectuals, such as Isaac Newton and his associates William Whiston and Samuel Clarke, all of whom held Arian views also influenced by Socinianism.117 Finally yet importantly, the Trinitarian controversy contributed to the explosion of the deist controversy, in that it facilitated opposition to mysteries in religion, attacks on priestcraft, and discussion of the political and socio-cultural factors behind the origin and growth of institutional religion.118 However, the fact that the Trinitarian controversy encouraged Tindal and Toland to publish their views on the Trinity and mysteries, and thus triggered the deist controversy, does not eliminate the differences between early modern anti-Trinitarianism in its different manifestations and the deistic views expressed by Tindal and Toland in the mid-1690s, and further elaborated in their later works.

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Notes

* This article is based on a paper I gave at the 2016 Conference of the International John Bunyan Society, “Voicing Dissent in the Long Reformation” (Aix-en-Provence, 6-9 July 2016). I would like to express my gratitude to the organizers of this conference, to my co-panelists Ariel Hessayon and Paul C. H. Lim, and to Nigel Smith, who kindly accepted to chair our panel. The completion of this article has benefited from my 2018 senior research fellowship at the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies (University of Hamburg), which I thank for its generous support. Finally, yet importantly, I am grateful to my home institution, the American University in Bulgaria, for its ongoing support of my research activities.

1 Matthew Tindal, A Letter to the Reverend the Clergy of Both Universities, concerning the Trinity and the Athanasian Creed, London, s. n., 1694; Matthew Tindal, The Reflections on the XXVIII Propositions Touching the Doctrine of the Trinity, London, s. n., 1695. In his Reflections, Tindal maintained the same views on the Trinity he had expressed in the Letter, although the Reflections were a response to the latitudinarian Bishop Edward Fowler’s work on the Trinity: Edward Fowler, Certain Propositions, by which the Doctrin of the H. Trinity is so explain’d, London, Aylmer, 1694.

2 John Toland, Christianity Not Mysterious: or, A Treatise Shewing, that there is Nothing in the Gospel Contrary to Reason, nor above it, and that no Christian Doctrine can be properly call’d a Mystery, London, s. n., 1696. For a critical edition, which also contains several essays on this book, see Philip McGuinness, Alan Harrison, Richard Kearney (eds.), John Toland’s “Christianity Not Mysterious”: Text, Associated Works and Critical Essays, Dublin, Lilliput Press, 1997. See also Tristan Dagron’s excellent French edition: John Toland, Le Christianisme sans mystères, Paris, Champion, 2005. In the present study, I refer to the 1696 edition.

3 Robert E. Sullivan, John Toland and the Deist Controversy: A Study in Adaptations, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 1982, p. 93; Philip Dixon, Nice and Hot Disputes: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventeenth Century, London, T&T Clark, 2003, p. 130-131; Christopher J. Walker, Reason and Religion in Late Seventeenth-Century England: The Politics and Theology of Radical Dissent, London, Tauris, 2013, p. 214-217; Stephen Lalor, Matthew Tindal, Freethinker: An Eighteenth-Century Assault on Religion, London, Continuum, 2006, p. 11, 54-58.

4 R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 109. On the debate on Christianity Not Mysterious in the 1690s and 1700s, see also Justin Champion, Republican Learning: John Toland and the Crisis of Christian Culture, 1696-1722, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003, p. 69-90; Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth, Deism in Enlightenment England: Theology, Politics, and Newtonian Public Science, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2009, p. 20-33.

5 R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 110.

6 I give more details on the Stillingfleet-Locke dispute below in the present article.

7 Gerald R. Cragg, From Puritanism to the Age of Reason, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1950, p. 140-141; Roland Stromberg, Religious Liberalism in Eighteenth-Century England, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1954, p. 98; Gerald R. Cragg, The Church in the Age of Reason 1648-1789, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1960, p. 77-78; Zbigniew Ogonowski, “Le ‘Christianisme sans mystères’ selon John Toland et les sociniens”, Archiwum historii filozofii i mysli spolecznej, 12, 1966, p. 205-223; Massimo Firpo, “Il rapporto tra socinianesimo e primo deismo inglese negli studi di uno storico polacco”, Critica storica, 10, 1973, p. 243-297; John C. Biddle, “Locke’s Critique of Innate Principles and Toland’s Deism”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 37, 3, 1976, p. 411-422; Gerard Reedy, “Socinians, John Toland, and the Anglican Rationalists,” Harvard Theological Review, 70, 3-4, 1977, p. 285-304; Frederick C. Beiser, The Sovereignty of Reason: The Defense of Rationality in the Early English Enlightenment, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1996, p. 230-240; Jonathan S. Marko, Measuring the Distance between Locke and Toland: Reason, Revelation, and Rejection during the Locke-Stillingfleet Debate, Eugene OR, Pickwick, 2017, p. 123-173.

8 R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 109-140; Stephen H. Daniel, John Toland: His Methods, Manners, and Mind, Kingston-Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1984, p. 21-59; J. Champion, op. cit., p. 69-90.

9 R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 232.

10 Matthew Tindal, Christianity as Old as the Creation: or, the Gospel, a Republication of the Religion of Nature, London, s. n., 1730; Thomas Morgan, The Moral Philosopher, London, printed for the author, 1737; Samuel Clarke, A Discourse Concerning the Unchangeable Obligations of Natural Religion, and the Truth and Certainty of the Christian Revelation, London, Knapton, 1706.

11 Whereas the reduction of Jesus Christ to merely a moral philosopher who had simply reaffirmed the law of nature was explicit in various deistic writings of the eighteenth century – particularly in the works of Tindal and his epigones, such as Thomas Morgan, Thomas Chubb, and Peter Annet – Locke already talked of this subject in The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695). While Locke used the terms “deist” and “deists” only in his two vindications of the Reasonableness, and not in the Reasonableness itself, in this book he criticized those who “thought there was no Redemption necessary, […] and so made Jesus Christ nothing but the Restorer and Preacher of pure Natural Religion; thereby doing violence to the whole tenor of the New Testament” (John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity, ed. John C. Higgins-Biddle, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1999, p. 5).

12 John Leland, A View of the Principal Deistical Writers, 2 vols., London, Dod, 1757.

13 Edward Herbert of Cherbury, De veritate, prout distinguitur a revelatione, a verosimili, a possibili et a falso, Paris, s. n., 1624. This work was written in 1622. After reading its manuscript, Hugo Grotius encouraged Herbert to publish it. On this author, see Ronald D. Bedford, The Defence of Truth: Herbert of Cherbury and the Seventeenth Century, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1979; John A. Butler, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1582-1648): An Intellectual Biography, Lewiston, Mellen, 1990; Richard Serjeantson, “Herbert of Cherbury before Deism: The Early Reception of the De Veritate”, The Seventeenth Century, 16, 2001, p. 217-238.

14 Dodwell was a son of the famous biblical scholar Henry Dodwell, the Elder. He was the author of the controversial book Christianity Not Founded on Argument (London, Cooper, 1741), which elicited over twenty responses. Given that Dodwell criticized all sorts of rational theology, including belief in natural religion, he cannot be considered a deist. On this author, see Diego Lucci, “An Eighteenth-Century Skeptical Attack on Rational Theology and Positive Religion: ‘Christianity Not Founded on Argument’ by Henry Dodwell the Younger”, Intellectual History Review, 23, 4, 2013, p. 453-478; Diego Lucci, “Henry Dodwell the Younger’s Attack on Christianity”, in Wayne Hudson, Diego Lucci and Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth (eds.), Atheism and Deism Revalued: Heterodox Religious Identities in Britain, 1650-1800, Farnham, Ashgate, 2014, p. 209-228.

15 Arthur O. Lovejoy, “The Parallel of Deism and Classicism”, Modern Philology, 29, 3, 1932, p. 281-299. For a concise but excellent discussion of English deism, see Justin Champion, “Deism”, in Richard H. Popkin (ed.), The Columbia History of Western Philosophy, New York, Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 437-445. For relatively recent histories of English deism, see Diego Lucci, Scripture and Deism: The Biblical Criticism of the Eighteenth-Century British Deists, Bern, Lang, 2008; Wayne Hudson, The English Deists: Studies in Early Enlightenment, London, Pickering & Chatto, 2009; Wayne Hudson, Enlightenment and Modernity: The English Deists and Reform, London, Pickering & Chatto, 2009; J. R. Wigelsworth, op. cit.

16 John Toland, Letters to Serena, London, Lintot, 1704, letters IV-V, p. 131-239. For recent, excellent editions, see John Toland, Lettres à Serena et autres textes, ed. Tristan Dagron, Paris, Champion, 2004; John Toland, Letters to Serena, ed. Ian Leask, Dublin, Four Courts Press, 2013. In the present essay, I refer to the 1704 edition.

17 On anti-Trinitarianism, and Socinianism in particular, in the early modern period, see Earl M. Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism, 2 vols., Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 1945-1952. For a selection of Socinian writings translated into English, see George H. Williams (ed.), The Polish Brethren: Documentation of the History and Thought of Unitarianism in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and in the Diaspora 1601-1685, 2 vols., Missoula, Scholars Press, 1980. On Socinianism in England, see H. John McLachlan, Socinianism in Seventeenth-Century England, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1951; Sarah Mortimer, Reason and Religion in the English Revolution: The Challenge of Socinianism, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010; Paul C. H. Lim, Mystery Unveiled: The Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

18 Socinus and his immediate disciples’ theories, including their criticism of the Trinity and of Calvinist predestinarianism, were expounded in a comprehensive way in the Racovian Catechism, first published in Polish in 1605, and translated into Latin in 1609: see Catechesis ecclesiarum quae in Regno Poloniae, Racoviae, s. n., 1609. Between the seventeenth and the nineteenth century, this book received several editions in different languages, including German, English, and Dutch. New Latin editions appeared in Holland in 1665 (dated “Irenopoli, post 1659”), 1680, and 1684. The 1684 edition is a reissue of the “post 1659” edition, whereas the 1680 Latin Catechism presents further revisions and is considered the “final edition” of this work prepared by the Socinians, and later translated into English by Thomas Rees: see Catechesis ecclesiarum Polonicarum, Stauropoli [Amsterdam], Per Eulogetum Philalethem, 1680; The Racovian Catechism, trans. and ed. Thomas Rees, London, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1818. The final edition of the Catechism was strongly influenced by the views of second-generation Socinians, such as Johann Crell and Jonas Schlichting: see Johann Crell, De uno Deo Patre libri duo, Racoviae, Tipis Sebastiani Sternacii, 1631; Johann Crell, Prima ethices elementa, Racoviae, Tipis Pauli Sternacii, 1635; Jonas Schlichting, Confessio fidei Christianae, n. p., s. n., 1642.

19 For instance, they interpreted the word “beginning” in John 1:1 (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”) as simply the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Concerning Romans 9:5 (“[…] Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever”) and other passages in which Christ is called “God”, they claimed that this appellative is to be understood as a synonym for “Lord”; and the term “Lord” denotes, simply, Christ’s Messiahship, not his divinity. Moreover, they denied the authenticity of a passage in the First Epistle of John commonly utilized to justify the Trinitarian doctrine – the so-called Comma Johanneum (“Johannine Comma”), namely 1 John 5:7-8 (“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. / And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one”). In the early modern period, the authenticity of the Comma Johanneum was questioned not only by the Socinians and other anti-Trinitarians, such as Isaac Newton and his associates William Whiston and Samuel Clarke, but also by the Catholic humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, the Catholic biblical scholar Richard Simon, and the English historian Edward Gibbon. These authors argued that the most important early Christian writers, including Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Jerome, Augustine, Origen, Cyprian, and Athanasius, had made no mention of the Comma. In fact, as Grantley McDonald has noted, “the reading of the comma given in the textus receptus is not found in any Greek manuscript except a handful copied from printed editions between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The comma is also absent from the earliest Latin bibles” (Grantley McDonald, Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe: Erasmus, the Johannine Comma and Trinitarian Debate, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016, p. 5). Concerning the Gospel of John in the early modern disputes on the Trinity, see P. C. H. Lim, op. cit., p. 271-319. The English translations of biblical verses in the present article are from the King James Version (KJV).

20 Boethius formulated this definition of “person” in the sixth century. On the anti-Trinitarians’ employment of the Boethian notion of “person”, see William S. Babcock, “A Changing of the Christian God”, Interpretation, 45, 2, 1991, p. 133-146.

21 On this point, see Sarah Mortimer, “Human Liberty and Human Nature in the Works of Faustus Socinus and His Readers”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 70, 2, 2009, p. 191-211, here p. 197.

22 Socinian ethics and soteriology were first explained in comprehensive terms in Faustus Socinus, De Jesu Christo Servatore, n. p. [Krakow], Typis Alexii Rodecii, 1594 (originally written in 1576-1578). See, also, Johann Crell, Ad librum Hugonis Grotii quem de satisfactione Christi adversus Faustum Socinum Senensem scripsit, Racoviae, Tipis Sternacianis, 1623. In this book, Crell defended Socinian soteriology from the critiques made by Grotius, who, as a Remonstrant, disapproved of Socinus’s outright rejection of the atonement. On this dispute, see Sarah Mortimer, “Human and Divine Justice in the Works of Grotius and the Socinians”, in John Robertson and Sarah Mortimer (eds.), The Intellectual Consequences of Religious Heterodoxy 1600-1750, Leiden, Brill, 2012, p. 75-94.

23 See Samuel Przypkowski, Dissertatio de pace et concordia ecclesiae, Eleutheropoli [Amsterdam], Typis Godfridi Philadelphi, 1628; Johann Crell, Vindiciae pro religionis libertate, Eleutheropoli [Amsterdam], Typis Godfridi Philadelphi, 1637; Jonas Schlichting, op. cit.

24 Best is the author of the first Socinian book in English: Paul Best, Mysteries Discovered, n. p. [London], s. n., 1647. Biddle, who was a schoolteacher, published a number of essays and catechisms, such as: John Biddle, Twelve Arguments drawn out of Scripture, n. p. [London], s. n., 1647; John Biddle, A Confession of Faith touching the Holy Trinity, according to the Scripture, London, s. n., 1648; John Biddle, The Apostolical and True Opinion concerning the Holy Trinity revived and reasserted, London, s. n., 1653; John Biddle, A Twofold Catechism, London, Moone, 1654. On Best and Biddle, see E. M. Wilbur, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 193-208; H. J. McLachlan, op. cit., p. 149-217; P. Dixon, op. cit., p. 42-53; Nigel Smith, “‘And if God was one of us’: Paul Best, John Biddle and Anti-Trinitarian Heresy in Seventeenth-Century England”, in David Loewenstein and John Marshall (eds.), Heresy, Literature and Politics in Early Modern English Culture, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 160-184; S. Mortimer, op. cit., p. 158-167; P. C. H. Lim, op. cit., p. 16-68; C. J. Walker, op. cit., p. 120-131.

25 On Puritan reactions to anti-Trinitarianism during the Civil War and Interregnum, see S. Mortimer, op. cit., p. 147-232; P. C. H. Lim, op. cit., p. 172-216.

26 Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum quos Unitarios vocant, 9 vols., Irenopoli – Eleutheropoli [Amsterdam], Sumptibus Irenici Philalethii, “post annum Domini 1656” [1665-1692]. This multi-volume work, edited and published by Socinian exiles in the Netherlands, was a collection of the writings of Socinus and other major Socinian thinkers.

27 Stephen Nye, A Brief History of the Unitarians, called also Socinians, London, s. n., 1687.

28 The English word “Unitarian” first appeared in a book by a former student of Biddle: see Henry Hedworth, Controversy Ended, London, Smith, 1673, p. 53. The Latin term “Unitarius”, however, was already widely used in reference to the Socinians in the second half of the seventeenth century. It also appears in the title of the above-mentioned Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum quos Unitarios vocant.

29 Jason E. Vickers, Invocation and Assent: The Making and Remaking of Trinitarian Theology, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2008, p. 70. The major Catholic tracts in English that raised this issue during James II’s reign are: Anon., The Protestant Plea for a Socinian, London, s. n., 1686; Anon., A Dialogue between a New Catholic Convert and a Protestant, London, s. n., 1686.

30 The actual title of the so-called Toleration Act of 1689, which expresses the true meaning and goal of this document, is “An Act for Exempting their Majestyes Protestant Subjects dissenting from the Church of England from the Penalties of certaine Lawes”. On this Act and its impact on English religious, social, and political life, see Ole P. Grell, Jonathan I. Israel and Nicholas Tyacke (eds.), From Persecution to Toleration: The Glorious Revolution and Religion in England, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1991.

31 Stephen Nye remained the rector of the parish of Little Hormead, a small hamlet in Hertfordshire, for all his life. He did not advance in his ecclesiastical career despite his vast theological learning. Arthur Bury, who was the author of The Naked Gospel (Oxford, s. n., 1690) – a work of creedal minimalism describing belief in the Trinity as unnecessary to salvation – saw his book condemned by a convocation of the University of Oxford as “impious and heretical” and, consequently, seized and burnt. Moreover, in July 1690, the Bishop of Exeter, Jonathan Trelawney, deprived Bury of his rectorship of Exeter College at Oxford because of the ideas he had expressed in his book. Four years later, in 1694, William Freke was fined £500 and was forced to recant his Arian views, which he had expounded in A Dialogue by way of Question and Answer, concerning the Deity (London, s. n., 1693). In 1696, the clockmaker and self-taught writer John Smith, author of A Designed End to the Socinian Controversy (London, s. n., 1695), was forced to recant his irenic ideas. Finally, in 1703, the Presbyterian divine Thomas Emlyn was tried for blasphemy in Dublin for having written An Humble Inquiry into the Scripture Account of Jesus Christ (n. p., s. n., 1702), an anti-Trinitarian treatise that caused a heated debate. Emlyn was fined £1,000 and was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, but he spent more than two years in prison because he was unable to pay the fee, which was eventually reduced to £70. It is therefore understandable that most of the anti-Trinitarians who took part in the controversy opted to remain anonymous. Most of them did not even know the identity of other Unitarian writers. Even Firmin and Nye probably ignored the identity of some of the Unitarian authors whose writings they helped to publish during the controversy. On the persecutions of Unitarian writers during the Trinitarian controversy, see E. M. Wilbur, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 231, 244-247; H. J. McLachlan, op. cit., p. 333-334; P. Dixon, op. cit., p. 108-109, 131-132; Brian W. Young, “Theological Books from The Naked Gospel to Nemesis of Faith”, in Isabel Rivers (ed.), Books and their Readers in Eighteenth-Century England: New Essays, London, Continuum, 2003, p. 79-104; Brent Sirota, “The Trinitarian Crisis in Church and State: Religious Controversy and the Making of the Post-Revolutionary Church of England, 1687-1702”, Journal of British Studies, 52, 1, 2013, p. 26-54; C. J. Walker, op. cit., p. 170-175, p. 185-193, p. 218-219, p. 240; G. R. McDonald, op. cit., p. 209-214.

32 In this article, I use the term “Anglican”, which came into general usage only in the latter half of the nineteenth century, to denote the specificity of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Church of England divines’ theological reasoning, as distinguished from Catholic, Continental Protestant, and English Nonconformist theological traditions. In this regard, I follow Jean-Louis Quantin’s example: see Jean-Louis Quantin, “The Fathers in Seventeenth-Century Anglican Theology”, in Irena Backus (ed.), The Reception of the Church Fathers in the West: From the Carolingians to the Maurists, 2 vols., Leiden, Brill, 1997, vol. 2, p. 987-1008, here p. 987.

33 Justin Champion, The Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken: The Church of England and Its Enemies 1660-1730, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 99-132.

34 B. Sirota, art. cit., p. 31.

35 Ibid.

36 Kristine L. Haugen, “Transformations of the Trinity Doctrine in English Scholarship: From the History of Beliefs to the History of Texts”, Archiv für Religionsgeschichte, 3, 2001, p. 149-168, here p. 150.

37 S. Nye, op. cit., p. 24. See, also, Anon., Brief Notes on the Creed of St. Athanasius, n. p., s. n., n. d. [1689?]. This tract, sometimes attributed to Nye, defines the Trinitarian interpretation of the biblical passages concerning the Godhead as “Absurd, and contrary to it self, to Reason, and to the rest of Scripture” (ibid., p. 4).

38 S. Nye, op. cit., p. 24.

39 Ibid., p. 32-33; Stephen Nye, A Defence of the Brief History of the Unitarians, London, s. n., 1691, p. 5; Stephen Nye, A Letter of Resolution concerning the Doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, London, s. n., 1691, p. 11-17.

40 W. Freke, op. cit.

41 Zwicker played a crucial role in popularizing the view that the first Christians, also known as Nazarenes or Ebionites, did not hold Trinitarian views and considered Jesus as a mere man: see Daniel Zwicker, Irenicum Irenicorum, Amsterdam, s. n., 1658, p. 15-17, 109-116. This view was later adopted not only by Nye and other Unitarians, but also by Henry Stubbe in his manuscript Account of the Rise and Progress of Mahometanism (c. 1671), and by John Toland in Nazarenus: or, Jewish, Gentile, and Mahometan Christianity, London, Brown, Roberts, and Brotherton, 1718. See Nabil Matar (ed.), Henry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam: The Originall & Progress of Mahometanism, New York, Columbia University Press, 2014; John Toland, Nazarenus, ed. Justin Champion, Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 1999 – the edition of Nazarenus to which I refer below in the present study. On the seventeenth-century English debate about the Platonic corruption of early Christianity, and on the attempts to bring the Christian religion back to its primitive state, see Dmitri Levitin, Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science: Histories of Philosophy in England, c. 1640-1700, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2015, p. 447-541; Diego Lucci, “Ante-Nicene Authority and the Trinity in Seventeenth-Century England”, Intellectual History Review, 28, 1, 2018, p. 101-124.

42 John Marshall, “Locke, Socinianism, ‘Socinianism’, and Unitarianism”, in M. A. Stewart (ed.), English Philosophy in the Age of Locke, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2000, p. 111-182, here p. 113.

43 Herbert Croft, The Naked Truth, London, s. n., 1675; A. Bury, op. cit.; J. Smith, op. cit.

44 J. Marshall, art. cit., p. 114.

45 William Sherlock, An Answer to a Late Dialogue between a New Catholick Convert and a Protestant, London, Bassett, 1687; Edward Stillingfleet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and Transubstantiation Compared, London, Rogers, 1687; Thomas Tenison, A Friendly Debate between a Roman Catholick and a Protestant, London, Taylor, 1688.

46 William Sherlock, A Vindication of the Doctrine of the Holy and Ever Blessed Trinity, London, Rogers, 1690, p. 48-50, 55-57, 66-68. On Sherlock’s views on the Trinity, see Udo Thiel, “The Trinity and Human Personal Identity”, in M. A. Stewart (ed.), op. cit., p. 217-243, here p. 220-231; P. Dixon, op. cit., p. 109-114; Stephen Hampton, Anti-Arminians: The Anglican Reformed Tradition from Charles II to George I, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 136-143; J. E. Vickers, op. cit., p. 79-122; C. J. Walker, op. cit., p. 164-170.

47 John Wallis, the Savilian professor of geometry at Oxford, criticized Sherlock in eight Letters written between 1690 and 1692, and eventually collected in John Wallis, Theological Discourses: Containing VIII Letters and III Sermons concerning the Blessed Trinity, London, Parkhurst, 1692. As to South’s attacks on Sherlock, see Robert South, Animadversions upon Dr. Sherlock’s Book, entituled A Vindication of the Holy and Ever-Blessed Trinity, London, Taylor, 1693; Robert South, Tritheism Charged upon Dr. Sherlock’s New Notion of the Trinity, London, Whitlock, 1695. Sherlock replied to South’s Animadversions in A Defence of Dr. Sherlock’s Notion of a Trinity in Unity, London, Rogers, 1694. On Wallis’s views on the Trinity, see P. Dixon, op. cit., p. 116-122; J. E. Vickers, op. cit., p. 122-133; S. Hampton, op. cit., p. 151-155; C. J. Walker, op. cit., p. 175-179. On the debate between South and Sherlock, see U. Thiel, art. cit., p. 231-236; P. Dixon, op. cit., p. 122-125; S. Hampton, op. cit., p. 143-150; C. J. Walker, op. cit., p. 195-201.

48 John Edwards, Theologia Reformata, 2 vols., London, Lawrence, 1713, vol. 1, p. 282-290. On Edwards’s contribution to the controversy, see S. Hampton, op. cit., p. 157-159.

49 P. Dixon, op. cit., p. 125.

50 Stephen Nye, Considerations on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity, London, s. n., 1693, p. 7-13, 19-26.

51 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 3.

52 Ibid., p. 35. On Tindal’s opposition to mysteries in religion, which characterized all his scholarly production from the 1690s to the 1730s, see J. R. Wigelsworth, op. cit., p. 17-20.

53 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 137.

54 Ibid., p. 77.

55 John Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, ed. Peter H. Nidditch, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1975, IV.xviii.7, p. 694.

56 Ibid., IV.xix.4, p. 698.

57 On Locke’s distinction between original and traditional revelation, see ibid., IV.xviii.3, p. 690. Although Locke was confident that the authors of the biblical texts had received original revelations from God, and although he did not dismiss the possibility of original revelations in modern times, he was very suspicious of those claiming to have received a revelation directly from God, as the chapter “Of Enthusiasm” in the Essay demonstrates: see ibid., IV.xix.5-16, p. 698-706.

58 Ibid., IV.xviii.9, p. 695.

59 Ibid.

60 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 33.

61 J. Locke, Essay, op. cit., IV.xviii.8, p. 694.

62 Ibid., IV.xviii.7-9, p. 694-695.

63 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 21.

64 James A. T. Lancaster, “From Matters of Faith to Matters of Fact: The Problem of Priestcraft in Early Modern England”, Intellectual History Review, 28, 1, 2018, p. 145-165, here p. 158.

65 Ibid.

66 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 17-18.

67 Ibid., p. 139.

68 Following the publication of The Reasonableness of Christianity, Edwards attacked this theological treatise in four books between 1695 and 1697. It was to reply to Edwards that Locke wrote his two vindications of the Reasonableness in 1695 and 1697. See John Locke, Vindications of the Reasonableness of Christianity, ed. Victor Nuovo, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2012. The Stillingfleet-Locke dispute saw the publication of three writings by each of these two authors between 1697 and 1699 – the year when this controversy came to an abrupt end because of Stillingfleet’s death. Concerning the debate on Locke’s religious thought, particularly on its closeness to the Socinian theological tradition and the accusation of anti-Trinitarianism levied against Locke by Edwards and others, see John C. Higgins-Biddle, “Introduction”, in Locke, Reasonableness, op. cit., p. xv-cxv, here p. xlii-lviii; J. Marshall, art. cit.; Stephen D. Snobelen, “Socinianism, Heresy and John Locke’s Reasonableness of Christianity”, Enlightenment and Dissent, 20, 2001, p. 88-125. On the dispute between Stillingfleet and Locke, see G. A. J. Rogers, “Stillingfleet, Locke, and the Trinity”, in Allison P. Coudert, Sarah Hutton, Richard H. Popkin and Gordon M. Weiner (eds.), Judaeo-Christian Culture in the Seventeenth Century: A Celebration of the Library of Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713), Dordrecht, Springer, 1999, p. 207-224; U. Thiel, art. cit.; M. A. Stewart, “Stillingfleet and the Way of Ideas”, in M. A. Stewart (ed.), op. cit., p. 245-280; Dixon, op. cit., p. 138-169; E. D. Kort, “Stillingfleet and Locke on Substance, Essence, and Articles of Faith”, Locke Studies, 5, 2005, p. 149-178; J. S. Marko, op. cit., p. 13-59.

69 See John Locke, “Adversaria Theologica 94”, in John Locke, Writings on Religion, ed. Victor Nuovo, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 19-33, here p. 23-28, where Locke considers Trinitological issues in the entries “Trinitas” and “Non Trinitas”, “Christus Deus Supremus” and “Christus non Deus Supremus”, “Christus merus homo” and “Christus non merus homo”, and, finally, “Spiritus Sanctus Deus” and “Spiritus Sanctus non Deus”. The original of this manuscript, which is held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, is MS Locke c. 43, p. 1-46.

70 On this point, see G. A. J. Rogers, “John Locke: Conservative Radical”, in Roger D. Lund (ed.), The Margins of Orthodoxy: Heterodox Writing and Cultural Response, 1660-1750, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 97-116, here p. 110.

71 Locke, Reasonableness, op. cit., p. 109. On Locke’s theology and Christology, see John Marshall, John Locke: Resistance, Religion and Responsibility, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 327-455; Victor Nuovo, Christianity, Antiquity, and Enlightenment: Interpretations of Locke, Dordrecht, Springer, 2011, p. 21-51, 75-101; Victor Nuovo, John Locke: The Philosopher as Christian Virtuoso, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017, p. 214-246.

72 Stillingfleet’s points against Locke are in the tenth and last chapter of his book: see Edward Stillingfleet, A Discourse in Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, London, Mortlock, 1697, p. 230-292.

73 J. Locke, Essay, op. cit., II.xxiii.1-6, p. 295-299.

74 Ibid., II.xxvii, p. 328-348.

75 John Locke, A Letter to the Right Reverend Edward, Lord Bishop of Worcester, concerning Some Passages Relating to Mr. Locke’s Essay of Human Understanding, London, Churchill, 1697, p. 5.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid., p. 30.

78 Stephen Nye, “The Unreasonableness of the Doctrine of the Trinity”, in A Second Collection of Tracts: Proving the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ the Only True God, London, s. n., 1692, separate pagination, here p. 7.

79 Stephen Nye, “The Trinitarian Scheme of Religion”, in Second Collection, op. cit., separate pagination, here p. 5.

80 Besides Tindal’s two tracts on the Trinity and Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious, see Matthew Tindal, The Rights of the Christian Church Asserted, London, s. n., 1707; J. Toland, Letters to Serena, op. cit., letters I-III, p. 1-130; J. Toland, Nazarenus, op. cit.

81 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 32.

82 Ibid., p. 35.

83 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 146.

84 Ibid., p. 163.

85 See Edward Herbert of Cherbury, Pagan Religion: A Translation of De religione gentilium, ed. John A. Butler, Ottawa, Dovehouse, 1996; Charles Blount, Great is Diana of the Ephesians: or, The Original of Idolatry, together with the Politick Institution of the Gentile Sacrifices, London, s. n., 1680.

86 See John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel, London, Tonson, 1681; Robert Howard, The History of Religion, London, s. n., 1694.

87 J. Locke, Essay, op. cit., III.x.2, p. 491.

88 Locke, Reasonableness, op. cit., p. 143-144, 161-163. Concerning the theme of priestcraft in the works of Locke and other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English authors, including deists like Tindal and Toland, see J. Marshall, op. cit., p. 353-357, 405-410; Mark Goldie, “John Locke, the Early Lockeans, and Priestcraft”, Intellectual History Review, 28, 1, 2018, p. 125-144; J. A. T. Lancaster, art. cit.

89 M. Tindal, Christianity, op. cit., p. 5.

90 Ibid., p. 11.

91 On Tindal’s views on God, humanity, and the world, see Diego Lucci and Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth, “‘God does not act arbitrarily, or interpose unnecessarily’: Providential Deism and the Denial of Miracles in Wollaston, Tindal, Chubb, and Morgan”, Intellectual History Review, 25, 2, 2015, p. 167-189, here p. 174-177.

92 J. Toland, Letters to Serena, op. cit., letters IV-V, p. 131-239. On Toland’s monism, see Paolo Casini, “Toland e l’attività della materia”, Rivista critica di storia della filosofia, 22, 1, 1967, p. 24-53; Chiara Giuntini, Panteismo e ideologia repubblicana. John Toland (1670-1722), Bologna, Il Mulino, 1979; S. H. Daniel, op. cit., p. 211-225; J. R. Wigelsworth, op. cit., p. 75-86; Gianluca Mori, L’ateismo dei moderni. Filosofia e negazione di Dio da Spinoza a d’Holbach, Rome, Carocci, 2016, p. 147-161. In his recent book, Mori has correctly noted that Toland’s monism is more radical than Spinoza’s metaphysical system. In fact, in the fourth and fifth of his Letters to Serena, Toland blamed Spinoza for distinguishing thought from matter and for denying that motion was intrinsic to matter. Therefore, he developed a sort of materialistic monism.

93 J. Toland, Letters to Serena, op. cit., letters I-III, p. 1-130; John Toland, “Origines Judaicae, sive Strabonis de Moyse et Religione Judaica Historia, breviter illustrata”, in John Toland, Adeisidaemon, sive Titus Livius a Superstitione vindicatus, Hagae Comitis, Johnson, 1709, p. 99-199.

94 J. Toland, Nazarenus, op. cit., p. 135-165.

95 On Richard Simon’s impact on English heterodox thinkers, see Justin Champion, “Père Richard Simon and English Biblical Criticism, 1680-1700”, in James E. Force and David S. Katz (eds.), Everything Connects: In Conference with Richard H. Popkin: Essays in His Honor, Leiden, Brill, 1999, p. 37-61. Nazarenus is a late instance of Toland’s contribution to the debate on the apocrypha and the constitution of the biblical canon, which he already questioned in Amyntor: or, A Defence of Milton’s Life, London, s. n., 1699. In Amyntor, Toland maintained that “the Canon of scripture was established at the Council of Laodicea in the fourth century, after bitter controversies and without the aid of any “extraordinary revelation” (ibid., p. 57-58). To substantiate this claim, he added that “there is not one single book in the New Testament which was not refus’d by some of the Ancients as unjustly fathered upon the Apostles, and really forged by their adversaries” (ibid., p. 61-62). Amyntor also contains a Catalogue of Books attributed in the Primitive Times to Jesus Christ, His Apostles and other Eminent Persons, in which Toland listed, along with various texts from the biblical canon, a number of apocryphal works (ibid., p. 20-41). On Toland’s biblical criticism and consideration of early Christian writings, see J. Champion, “Introduction”, in J. Toland, Nazarenus, op. cit., p. 1-106; J. Champion, Republican Learning, op. cit., p. 190-212; D. Lucci, op. cit., p. 65-133.

96 Benedict de Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, trans. Michael Silverthorne and Jonathan I. Israel, ed. Jonathan I. Israel, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 97-194.

97 For a thorough analysis of Toland’s borrowings from Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus in Christianity Not Mysterious, see Ian Leask, “The Undivulged Event in Toland’s ‘Christianity Not Mysterious’”, in W. Hudson, D. Lucci and J. R. Wigelsworth (eds.), op. cit., p. 63-80. In my analysis of Spinoza’s influence on Toland, and particularly on Christianity Not Mysterious, in the present article, I leave aside the debate on a 1695 book often attributed to Toland: L. P., Master of Arts, Two Essays Sent in a Letter from Oxford to a Nobleman in London. The First Concerning Some Errors about the Creation, General Flood, and the Peopling of the World. The Second, Concerning the Rise, Progress, and Destruction of Fables and Romances. With the State of Learning, London, Baldwin, 1695. Among others, Robert Sullivan and Stephen Daniel have concluded that Toland is the author of Two Essays, a book that discusses biblical mythology and endorses a monistic cosmology. Sullivan has hypothesized that Toland “chose to teach esoterically and exoterically near the beginning of his literary career, years before he limned his strategy. Following the composition of Two Essays, he appears to have reconsidered his approach and reached a decision which affected everything else he wrote. Since he had avoided being connected with the pamphlet, he was perhaps moved less by concern about his own safety than by a desire to achieve acceptance. Despite its reasonableness, materialism would never supplant Christianity; it could persuade only a few and was, therefore, incapable of simultaneously advancing rationally and maintaining order” (R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 115). At any rate, I agree with Stephen Daniel that “Two Essays is of moderate importance for Toland’s early statements” (S. H. Daniel, op. cit., p. 15), given also that Toland gained visibility on the cultural scene in England following the publication of Christianity Not Mysterious.

98 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 150.

99 John Toland, Tetradymus. Containing: I) Hodegus; II) Clidophorus; III) Hypatia; IV) Mangoneutes, London, Brotherton, 1720, p. 5-7, 24-27.

100 B. de Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, op. cit., p. 81-96.

101 Socinus expounded this view of Christ’s miracles when providing his proof of the divine authority of Scripture in De Sacrae Scripturae auctoritate, first published in Seville in 1588 under the pseudonym of Dominicus Lopez, and translated into French in 1592. The most famous Latin edition of this book was made in 1611 by the Dutch Remonstrant scholar Conrad Vorstius, whose sympathies for Socinian thought caused him to lose the theology chair at Leiden upon King James’s request: see Faustus Socinus, De auctoritate Sacrae Scripturae, ed. Conrad Vorstius, Steinfurt, Excudit Theoph. Caesar, 1611. An English translation appeared in 1731: Faustus Socinus, An Argument for the Authority of Holy Scripture, London, Meadows, 1731. Locke knew and approved of Socinus’s proof of scriptural authority, which had also been popularized by Hugo Grotius in Pro Veritate Religionis Christianae (Paris, Apud Iacobum Ruart, 1627): see V. Nuovo, Christianity, op. cit., p. 53-73; V. Nuovo, John Locke, op. cit., p. 220-225, 233-235. Concerning Locke’s views on scriptural authority and his emphasis on Christ’s miracles, which he too, like Socinus, regarded as a confirmation of Christ’s Messiahship, see John Locke, “A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity”, in J. Locke, Vindications, op. cit., p. 27-233, here p. 35; John Locke, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, ed. Arthur W. Wainwright, 2 vols., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1987, vol. 1, p. 172 (in the paraphrase and notes on 1 Cor. 2:4-5); John Locke, “A Discourse of Miracles”, in John Locke, Posthumous Works, London, Churchill, 1706, p. 215-231.

102 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 49.

103 B. de Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, op. cit., p. 97-117.

104 For a concise but excellent analysis of Toland’s exegetical, philological, and historical-critical methods, see Luisa Simonutti, “Deism, Biblical Hermeneutics and Philology”, in W. Hudson, D. Lucci and J. R. Wigelsworth (eds.), op. cit., p. 45-62.

105 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 41-42.

106 Ibid., p. 40.

107 I. Leask, art. cit., p. 63.

108 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 34.

109 B. de Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, op. cit., p. 97-117.

110 Ibid., p. 13-26.

111 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 25; M. Tindal, Reflections, op. cit., p. 27.

112 J. Toland, Christianity, op. cit., p. 46.

113 J. Toland, Nazarenus, op. cit., p. 165, 179.

114 M. Tindal, Letter, op. cit., p. 4-5, 9, 14-15, 28-29, 31.

115 Faustus Socinus, De Iesu Christi invocatione disputatio, n. p. [Krakow], Typis Alexii Rodecii, 1595.

116 Stephen Nye, The Agreement of the Unitarians with the Catholick Church, London, s. n., 1697; Stephen Nye, The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, London, Bell, 1701.

117 On the Newtonians’ Arianism, see Maurice Wiles, Archetypal Heresy: Arianism through the Centuries, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1996, p. 77-134. On the impact of Socinian theories on the heresies of Newton, Whiston, and Clarke, see Stephen D. Snobelen, Isaac Newton, Socinianism and ‘the One Supreme God’”, in Martin Mulsow and Jan Rohls (eds.), Socinianism and Arminianism: Antitrinitarians, Calvinists and Cultural Exchange in Seventeenth-Century Europe, Leiden, Brill, 2005, p. 241-293; Stephen D. Snobelen, “Socinianism and Newtonianism: The Case of William Whiston”, in Lech Szczucki (ed.), Faustus Socinus and His Heritage, Krakow, Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2005, p. 373-413; Stephen D. Snobelen, “Socinianism and Newtonianism: The Case of Samuel Clarke”, in Mariangela Priarolo and Maria Emanuela Scribano (eds.), Fausto Sozzini e la filosofia in Europa, Siena, Accademia Senese degli Intronati, 2006, p. 251-302.

118 On this issue, see R. E. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 82-108; J. Champion, Pillars, op. cit., p. 99-132.

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Diego Lucci, « From Unitarianism to Deism: Matthew Tindal, John Toland, and the Trinitarian Controversy », Études Épistémè [En ligne], 35 | 2019, mis en ligne le 02 juillet 2019, consulté le 15 septembre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/4223 ; DOI : 10.4000/episteme.4223

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Diego Lucci

Diego Lucci is a professor of philosophy and history at the American University in Bulgaria. He is also a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Naples “Federico II” and, during his career, he has taught at Boston University and the University of Missouri St. Louis. He has held research fellowships and visiting professorships at several institutions, including, among others, the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies at the University of Hamburg, the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London, Gladstone’s Library, and the Catholic University of Milan. His research concentrates on early modern philosophy and the intellectual history of the Enlightenment, with a focus on empiricism, deism, Newtonianism, anti-Trinitarian theologies, Christian Hebraism, and Jewish-Gentile relations. He is the author of two books in English, and over forty journal articles and book chapters. Moreover, he is the co-editor of four volumes. Among his publications are the monograph Scripture and Deism (2008), and the co-edited collection of essays Atheism and Deism Revalued (2014).

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