History of movemnets - 31

Christianity and even Judaism were themselves in origin religious reform movements; and, like all such movements, were essentially liberal in the beginning. Moses was a Unitarian and so was Jesus and his near­est disciples. “During the first two centuries of the Christian era, the religious teachings of Jesus came into contact with the speculative thought of Alexandria and Greece, Gradually a systematic dogma coiled itself round the primitive faith of Christians and an elaborate ritual fastened itself on the observances of public worship. The Trinitarian doctrine suggested by Tertullian (150-230) developed by Apollinaris (d. 390) and Augustine (354-430) became an establi­shed ecclesiastical creed by the edict of the council of Nicasa (325)” Michael Servetus, born at Villanneva in Spain in 1511 was the first to emancipate religious thought from the crust of Christology thus accumulat­ed through twelve centuries. His important work was a book “Resotaration of Christianity.” For this great service to humanity he had the great man's reward, slow death on the pile of burning green wood at Geneva on the 27th of October 1563. Faasto Sazxine born at Siena, Tuscany, Italy, 5 December 1539 followed Servitus in this great service and died in seclusion at Luclawise 3 March 1604.

Hungary. The honor of developing the liberal faith or organized life belongs however to Hungary, where Fraucis David conducted the first Unitarian service in the open air from a large stone in the streets of Thorda. Curiously enough Fansto Sozzini helped in persecut­ing David who died in prison in 1579: but his church survived. “It had the good fortune through the influence of Prince Sigismund who adopted Unitarian views, to aid in the establishment, in Transylvania, of religious liberties unknown to any other country at this early period. An ordinance was passed that every one might embrace, without restraint, that religion which he preferred to hold ……and that the members must not intermeddle either openly or secretly in things tending to the oppression of another religion. This fact is the explanation of the perpe­tuity of the Unitarian Church in Transylvania from 1546 to the present time….. …Notwithstanding this law the Unitarians have been subjected to a very unjust treatment principally through the mandates of Rome to the rulers of Austria who have held dominion over Transylvania. At one time the Unitarians were in possession of no less than 400 Church buildings, eleven colleges and three Universities. They were deprived of two thirds of these from time to time by the Jesnit-ridden Government of the country. ...In 1721 the school buildings were Violently taken from them. Not until the close of the last century were they permitted to print for themselves their own list-books for the instruction of their stu­dents in Theology. In 1791 Joseph Prince of Transylvania once more confirmed the equality of their rights.By the intrigues of the Pope, the Austrian Government renewed its attack in 1857 on the liberties of this Church whose ranks were already thinned. Austria demanded at the instigation of the jesnits, that the control of education in Hungary should be handed over to the Catholic Church. But for the help given in England and America to raise funds and the indignation excited againut the unjust exactions of that period, 1857, the Unitarians in Hungary would have suffered a serious loss Mr. J. Fretwell rightly compliments “The position of these poor churches among the Transylvanian hills is of supreme importance to the cause of peace, of morality, of all that we call Christianity, at a time when all Eastern Europe is inflammed by the conflict between the Mahomeddans and a people, who calling themselves Christians, are if possible, more inhuman than the Turks.” Since the last Austrian attack, there has been a gradually closer intercommunication between the Unitarians in Hungary and those in England and America. Uni­tarians in Hungary have not only sent their young men to be educated in England but hare translated into their own language the works of Channiag and other Unitarians. A traveller in Hungary observes “I attended a religious services of the Unitarians. The Church, was small, perfectly plain, painted white and evidently several centuries old. The peasant women occupied one side, and the men the other. They all sang in common. The prayers were extermpore; the sermon was without notes. I residedsubsequently among village of the Unitarians. The populations are all remarkable for their intelligence nod morality. As a general thing they are radicals in Politics. I also learned from my companions that there was not a Unitarian child through the whole region who could not read or write. This was re­markable in a conntry where 75 percent of the total population can neither read nor write. Then I asked how as to criminal offences, drunkenness, immorality of the sexes, theft and the like. He answered “Oh they are almost unknown; we have no illegitimate children; the people are very sober and hard-working.”

The above acconnt of an eye-witness is doubly interesting as it indicates that a liberal living religion is neither confined to the intellectual aristocrasy nor to the other upper classes residing in towns and other crowded centres of modern civilized life. Secondly it shows that a religious belief and life freed from the excesses of dogim and ritualism, is not merely one sided intellectual growth, as some may suppose, but has its healthy moral as well as civic effects naturally arising from the intellectual emancipation and stimu­lus. In 1876 the situation in Hungary was described “At the present time in Hungary there is a Unitarian population of about 60,000 who have among them abont 120 churches. One of our friends informs ns that in their schools, the children are taught very distinctly the way of both defining and sustaining their Unitarian position.”The progressive movement was crowned in 1896 by the Bill of Religious Freedom which secured freedom and tolerance for every religions sect and finally the Civil Marriage Law passed in 1897 dealt a serious blow to the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary.