Sebastian Castellio: Neglected Saint of the Liberal Church

Duncan Howlett

Berry Street lecture, 1950


read before the Ministerial Conference

March 19, 1950


Please notice the subtitle. I did not say "forgotten” saint of the liberal church. We have not forgotten Castellio; we never knew him. His own age did its best to silence him, and push him into obscurity. Subsequent ages have been glad to allow oblivion to blot him out of sight. And even today, four hundred years after he lived and died, one cannot retell his story without running the risk of involvement in controversy. Such a controversy is in process in Europe now. It centers in Jean Scherer, pastor of the Cathedral of St. Pierre in Geneva (the church once served by John Calvin), who wrote a book defending a biography of Castellio by Stefan Zweig.


Who was this obscure figure in whom so much vitality still lingers? If the announcement that Sebastian Castellio was to be the subject of this address piqued your curiosity and you looked him up to see who he was, you may have had some trouble. If you consulted the great Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, you found nothing on him, unless you turned to the index. There in that volume, which in the course of a thousand pages lists everything from Ablabius to Zamzummim, you found but two references to his name. You found nothing on him in Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, again, unless you turned to the index, where you discovered that his name was mentioned once in a long article on toleration. Hayes' widely used textbook, Political Cultural History of Europe, does not mention him, nor do other comparable texts. Thus, if you happen never to have heard of Sebastian Castellio, you need feel no humiliation. With but few exceptions, neither has anyone else.


My own contact with his name came long after the completion of what this age regards as a good education. One day about ten years ago, I came upon a book by Stefan Zweig, entitled The Right to Heresy, subtitle, Castellio Against Calvin. It was a well-bound, well-printed, well-illustrated book, listed at $3.00, being sold as a publisher's remainder for sixty-nine cents. The storekeeper's figures are still in the upper right-hand corner of the flyleaf of my copy. The title, The Right to Heresy, and the name Calvin was all I needed to know that the book was worth sixty-nine cents to me. It has proved to be worth much more than that.


Zweig's book is not the best of history, for it is too polemical, but it performs a great service nevertheless, because it rescues from oblivion a singularly important man. A very scholarly work on Castellio is available for students. In 1935, Professor Roland H. Bainton of Yale published in the Columbia University Records of Civilization Series, Sebastian Castellio's most famous and important book, Concerning Heretics. He made the translation himself, and added an excellent hundred-page introduction. He also included a few excerpts from Castellio's other writings. This book is now, unhappily, out of print. It is, however, commonly available in libraries, and I think we owe a deep debt of gratitude to Professor Bainton and to the Columbia University Press for bringing Castellio's work back to the light of day.


One more reference and I shall be done with the sources. There is a somewhat extended treatment of Castellio in Earl Morse Wilbur's History of Unitarianism. There is also a little on him in J. W. Allen's Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century, and Lecky's Rationalism in Europe. It is to such volumes you must go, if you want to read about him. Here you will find a page or two or three about him, but elsewhere rarely the mention even of his name. It was through Wilbur's book I first learned of the true significance of the man of whom Zweig had written, and in that book also I first learned of Bainton's translation of Castellio's greatest work.


The Reformation was one of the great social, intellectual and spiritual upheavals of western history. This statement is a commonplace, but one so important we must never lose sight of it. Once the Reformation had come to pass, the greatest task facing the Reformers, the leaders of this upheaval, was the control of the forces they had released. When old social bonds are broken, new ones must be put in their place, or immorality and anarchy result. The Reformers feared these results on two counts. In the first place, they, like all men, wanted an ordered, peaceable society. Secondly, they feared for the continued existence of the Reformation as a movement. The Roman Church was still very strong, and by counter-reform, entreaty and connivance was striving to bring the erring Protestants back to the fold. She continually reminded the princes of Europe, who usually determined the religion of the people, that she was and always had been the champion of the social order. The Reformers knew the Reformation was doomed unless they could demonstrate that they too were able to maintain an ordered society.


This generalization was conspicuously true of the city of Geneva. The Reformation there came more than a decade later than in Germany and in some of the other Swiss cantons. The turbulence accompanying it was as great if not greater than anywhere else. It followed upon the heels of war and civic violence. Farel was its leader. Fiery preacher that he was, great scholar, devout and beloved by the Genevese though he was, he could not control the forces he had loosed. He had the wisdom to know his own limitations, however, and succeeded in settling John Calvin in the city to aid him in bringing turbulence into order.


The story of the steady progress by which Calvin made himself religious and spiritual dictator of Geneva does not need to be retold here. Calvin promptly brought order out of chaos. The people of Geneva who had enjoyed great freedom for generations submitted to his rule because they knew not what else to do. His tyranny was to be preferred to either of the other two alternatives open to the Genevese, the tyranny of Rome and the House of Savoy on the one hand, or social chaos on the other. Calvin's dictatorship meant the loss of some personal liberties for the Genevese, but it also meant freedom from outside oppression, and order and stability within the city.


We sometimes forget that John Calvin would have lived his life in the cloister of the church or the university, if he had been permitted to follow his own bent. He rose to political power not because he had demonstrated any political acumen, or even any taste for political power. He rose to a position of eminence because as a young man he wrote a very influential book. In the early days of the Reformation there was as little order in Protestant thought as in Protestant society. Calvin, who proved himself one of the undisputed intellects of the Sixteenth Century, set himself to the task of systematizing Protestant theology. The result was the Institutes of the Christian Religion, one of the most influential books ever written. Europe promptly acclaimed it the great work it has since proved to be. Calvin was made political, moral and religious dictator of Geneva because he had already attained pre-eminence as the leading Protestant theologian of the time.




It is in this setting that the story of Sebastian Castellio begins, and it is in this setting alone that it can be fully understood. Let us interject here a word or two about his origins, before we begin the story of his great struggle with Calvin, a struggle he himself described as "a flea attacking an elephant.”


Sebastian Castellio was born in 1515 in Saint-Martindu-Fresne, a village of Bresse, which borders on Switzerland, France and Savoy. This makes him a Frenchman, by a few miles, rather than an Italian or a Swiss. His mother tongue was French, although he seems to have been equally at home in Italian, and in German as well, which he mastered at a later date. He distinguished himself at the University of Lyons, becoming a master of Greek, Latin and Hebrew. There is no doubt that he was one of the most brilliant and learned men of his day. He was a man of broad genius, like so many of the men of the Renaissance, for he seems also to have attained skill in music and to have written poetry.


Like Michael Servetus, the Spaniard, whose name and honor he was one day to defend, Sebastian Castellio, the Frenchman, was transformed from a student into a man of action, by beholding the works of the Medieval Church. The burning of heretics at Lyons, which he witnessed at the age of twenty-four, turned him from his classical studies and the church of his birth, to the Reformation. This was in the year 1540, when the Reformation was already more than twenty years old. It was to John Calvin at Strassbourg he went at this crisis in his life. Castellio the scholar was drawn to Calvin the scholar. Castellio, the man of independent mind, lover of freedom and tolerance, was particularly attracted to Calvin because of the latter's demand for tolerance in the introduction to the Institutes. This was when Calvin was in Strassbourg, after his first years in Geneva and before he returned as spiritual dictator of the city.


Although Castellio saw little of Calvin at Strassbourg, he apparently made an impression, for when Calvin had been established in Geneva a second time, now as dictator of the city, Castellio was summoned to come and labor there with him. Farel made the recommendation. He seems to have been a shrewd judge of character, yet not shrewd enough to realize that there would prove to be no room in Geneva for anyone of Castellio's intellectual independence, once Calvin was master of the city.


Castellio was appointed to the office of rector of the College of Geneva, and commissioned to preach in the church at Vandoevres, a suburb of the town. This was in 1542. He was, however, not long to enjoy the calm and peaceful labor for the Reformation he desired. Among other tasks, he began the translation of the Bible into French, hoping to do for the French people what Luther had done for the Germans. Calvin permitted no book to be published without his approval, so Castellio applied to him for permission to print his Bible. Rather than being pleased at the prowess of his rector, Calvin seems to have been thrown into something of a fury by this proposal. He did not forbid the publication altogether—he granted it on condition that he, Calvin might first check it over, making what alterations he thought fit. Whether he feared an intellectual rival, it is now not possible to say. Probably the incident is but one more instance of the arbitrary and extreme measures Calvin felt were necessary to maintain order in the city. It is also true that Calvin did not regard theological issues as matters for debate.


Castellio, on his part, replied as a man of independent mind might be expected to do. He would be grateful for Calvin's advice and assistance, but he could not submit his intellectual labors to Calvin's will. As Stefan Zweig points out, here for the first time the blades crossed. Here for the first time the dictator discovered his rector to be a man of independent mind, who did not make decisions in accordance with "policy” and who was possessed of a lively sense of his own integrity. If Castellio had been able to measure the qualities of his adversary, he might better have left Geneva, when he departed from Calvin's rooms after that fateful interview.


All innocence, Castellio did just the opposite. Soon after, he applied for a position as "preacher of God's word,” because he was unable to provide for his family on the small stipend given him by the University and his little suburban church. The Council approved his application, but Calvin objected. He stated the grounds as follows in a letter to Farel: "There are important reasons against this appointment. To the Council I merely hinted at these reasons, without expressing them openly. At the same time, to avert erroneous suspicion, I was careful to make no attack upon his reputation, being desirous to protect him.”


Castellio was one of those men who never fears calumny, provided there is an opportunity for the truth to be heard. Secure in his own mind, he demanded that Calvin make the charges explicit. Fortunately, we know what the charges were. They were two in number. In the first place, Castellio had declared that the Song of Songs is not an allegory of Christ and the Church, but a Hebrew love poem. There is not a scholar of repute who now disagrees with this observation which Castellio was brilliant enough to make and bold enough to declare more than four hundred years ago. The second charge was that Castellio's interpretation of Christ's descent into hell was different from Calvin's.


Again Castellio refused to follow the way of submission. He would not renounce his opinion, and as a result, he did not get the appointment. Yet still he stayed on. Castellio had not long to wait for the next blow, however. After he and Calvin first clashed and he refused to submit his mind and heart to Calvin’s superior authority, the accusations came against him with implacable regularity. Castellio was next hailed before the Council on the charge of undermining the prestige of the clergy. This was because in a public meeting he had risen to demand of the clergy the same humility and high standards of conduct they demanded of the people. The Council did not dismiss him, but only censured him, but this was the last act of the drama at Geneva. At last it became plain to Castellio that there was no longer a place for him under Calvin's iron rule, and so he went his way.


Sebastian Castellio suffered the fate of almost all men who have the impudence to defy entrenched authority. Virtually banished from Geneva, for a while he wandered penniless from place to place, seeking some kind of useful employment. But men were as fearful then as now to harbor, to help or to employ a man who had come under the shadow of suspicion. Calvin's emissaries were everywhere; the influence of Geneva was now felt throughout Protestant Europe. So one of the greatest minds of the century lay fallow for a time because there was no work to be had; one of the most courageous spirits of the age was cast out like a victim of the plague.


Castellio finally came to Basle, where the famous printing house of Oporinus gave him a job as a proofreader, work which we recall Servetus also did. He was able to get some work as a private tutor as well. At times he was forced to do menial work, in order to earn enough money to support his wife and children. "We can count by thousands the pages he translated from Greek, Hebrew, Italian and German for the Basle book printer—simply in order to secure daily bread,” says Zweig.


Here in Basle, Castellio at last knew peace, even though it was peace in poverty. The gentle influence of Erasmus, the great humanist, still permeated the intellectual life of the city. It was the harbor of the religious rebels of Europe. Eventually, after what suffering we do not know, Castellio was lifted from his literary hack work to a professorship in Greek at the University. There he continued his labors on the translation of the Bible into French, and found intimate and heartening fellowship with the other free religious spirits who also had gravitated to that center.




There are men who are belligerent by nature, men who are always embroiled in some kind of fight. On the other hand, there are men who are peaceable by nature, and who quietly avoid all controversy of any kind. Then there are also those peaceable men who yet love principle more than peace. Such men are sometimes involved in a fray in spite of themselves. They fling themselves into the midst of a struggle they would have been glad to avoid, because an issue is at stake which is more important than peace. Such a man was Castellio. He never sought controversy, but he never avoided it for the sake of quietude. No considerations of expediency were great enough to keep him silent. Because of this inner integrity, Castellio was fated to cross swords with the mighty Calvin once more before death came to claim his tired body and broken spirit while he was still a comparatively young man.


Just ten years after Castellio was driven from Geneva, Calvin burned Michael Servetus at the stake. This was on October 27, 1553. Now there was nothing new or unusual in burning a man at the stake in the middle of the Sixteenth Century. For five hundred years, Europe had resounded with the cries of religious martyrs; for five hundred years her skies had been darkened by the smoke rising from the fires which consumed their anguished bodies. Historians have been unable to count the number of people the church tortured, burned, hanged, drowned, butchered and beheaded for the greater glory of God. So thoroughly and completely had the Inquisition done its dire work that Protestants after the Reformation thought it nothing unusual to continue the practice.


There had been a discernible difference, however, between the practices of the Inquisition and those of the Protestants. Protestant executions, for the most part, had been directed against social revolutionaries, who were of many shades and varieties of belief, and were generally lumped together under the theological category of Anabaptists. These executions were part of an attempt to suppress mass movements of social upheaval and reform, as well as religious heresy. To point this out is neither to excuse nor justify these executions, but only to explain them.


Until the condemnation of Servetus, Protestants had never quite so clearly consigned a man to the flames merely for disagreement upon a point of doctrine. Indeed, logically, it is hard to see how they could. They themselves had parted from Rome upon matters of doctrine. Then, free of the control of Rome, they had not been able to agree among themselves upon the doctrines on which they differed from Rome. How, then, could they exact the death penalty upon their own members, merely for disagreement with the majority? This logical problem seems to have troubled them little in their ruthless suppressing of the Anabaptists. They simply ignored it. Everyone seems to have been sufficiently alarmed by the Anabaptist movement never to have raised a question about the propriety of hunting them out and annihilating them with fire and sword.


With Servetus, however, it was different. He was quite clearly not an Anabaptist, and consequently the pattern of conduct pursued in relation to those unhappy people for some thirty years did not automatically apply to him. The logical inconsistency lying at the root of Protestantism came into focus at last with the execution of Servetus. But it came then only because the heresy of Servetus was unique. Almost no one else in the Reformation period attacked the doctrine of the Trinity. Certainly by the time of his execution, when the Reformation was more than thirty-five years old, all such heretical murmurings about the Trinity had long since been silenced. The Protestants, like the Catholics, from whom they had separated, simply took this central tenet of the Christian faith for granted.


Thus the trial and condemnation of Servetus brought before Protestantism a question that Europe had not debated heretofore. The question was whether or not a man may be slain for holding an idea different from that which is declared to be orthodox by those in authority. Europe had never debated the question before, because no debate had been permitted under the watchful eye of Rome. Ancient, worldly wise and eminently practical, she had learned more than a thousand years before that doctrine must be fixed by fiat, or chaos will result. She learned her lesson the hard way, and never afterward deviated from her chosen path. Her ruthless torture and destruction of all who dared to question her, from the beginning of the Middle Ages on, bears grim testimony to the determination with which she held her course.


Whatever else Protestantism was, it was a movement which broke with Rome's claim to be the arbiter of all true doctrine and dogma. Yet so implicit in the thinking of Europe had uniformity of religious doctrine become, that the Protestants seem not to have realized that they had broken with this position in principle, even though they might not yet be ready to translate the principle into practice. To be sure, Protestants took into their own hands the right to differ with Rome upon points of doctrine, but the right was not claimed as a general principle, standing clear upon its own merits. It was claimed as a right justified by Rome's deflection in certain particulars. The Reformation did not claim the right to differ with Rome as a right belonging to free men: they claimed the right to correct Rome and bring her back to what the Bible indicated was pure and undefiled Christianity.




If Protestantism had not stated its own premises clearly, it had put them into practice without stating them. If it had not clearly and consciously thought its position out, it had felt that position incipiently and sensed it, even though no one came forward to state it. This Calvin discovered, e'er the charred remains of Michael Servetus grew cold. He himself has provided us with evidence that murmuring against him soon filled the streets of Geneva and spread across the entire face of Europe. Within four months of Servetus' death, John Calvin had written and published a book defending in detail the action he had taken.


We need not pause to rehearse his arguments. They are the same as those advanced by the Inquisition and by all modern dictatorships. Any orthodoxy, religious or political, starts with the premise that it has the truth and that it knows the truth. It matters not whether the truth is supposed to have come by revelation, through history or by discovery, the formula is always the same. Those who claim to possess the truth and to be able to recognize it, hold that for truth's sake, as well as for the good of all people, dissenters and independents must be silenced. Force, cruelty and violence are not merely justified in pursuing this end, they fall upon the heads of the orthodoxy as duties, and compel them to act. So the argument runs. The protecting and propagating of the "truth” becomes the excuse for the ruthless suppression of anyone who might be thought to challenge the established authority. This was the basis on which Calvin justified the execution of Servetus.


Meanwhile, in Basle, another volume was in the course of preparation. It was published a month after Calvin's Defensio, under the title De Haereticis, and appeared in two simultaneous Latin editions, as well as in German and French. The author was given on the title page as Martinus Bellius, and the place of publication Magdeburg for the Latin editions, and Rouen for the French. Calvin and his supporters readily surmised that the book had been published by Oporinus at Basle, and that its author was none other than Sebastian Castellio. It was also surmised that the circle of independent thinkers known to be at Basle at the University had also had a hand in its preparation. This list included such men as Lalio Sozini, Coelius Secundus Curio, Martin Borrhaus and David Joris. The studies of modern scholars testify to the accuracy of these guesses. Their studies have made it clear, however, that Castellio's is the ultimate responsibility, and a manuscript in his own handwriting which has just been discovered proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Castellio not only edited the entire work, but wrote much of it with his own hand.


The argument of Castellio is well worth reviewing, and it can be stated very simply. He held that truth is not a matter of orthodoxy; it is something to be discovered. Down the ages men have disputed over every one of the Christian doctrines. This, he argued, shows that none can be established as final truth. On this ground alone, persecution of the heterodox is unjustified. But there are other objections to be made. We do not all have to agree upon matters of doctrine in order to be saved, he said; the important thing is that we follow in the way of Christ. This alone can bring salvation to us. For this reason, persecution is wicked. It is also futile, he argues. To slay a man is not to defend a doctrine; it is only to slay a man. Thus persecution is useless and also evil. A man should be permitted to read his Gospel and accept the truth he reads there as his mind and heart dictate. So argued Castellio.


To Beza was assigned the task of refuting theDe Haereticis, a task he undertook with evident relish. Again, his are the familiar arguments of the orthodox in all ages. He did not meet the points raised by Castellio. Instead, he argued from the utility of the prevailing view. If we surrender the truth we have been given, what standards shall we have by which to go, he asked.


Calvin, however, now exhibited as little confidence in the truth given into his keeping as heretofore. Unable to silence Servetus, he had slain him. Likewise, not content to have "refuted” Castellio through the writings of the great Beza, he now took more direct measures, in order that the truth might be sure to prevail.


Calvin began by heaping bitterness and contumely upon Castellio's head. So outrageous and so unjust was the abuse he poured out that Castellio wrote another book just to defend himself against the lies being circulated about him. The volume was entitled Against the Libels of Calvin, and was completed in December of that same fateful year, 1554. By this time, Calvin was so powerful, his spies so effective, his determination to suppress all opposition so implacable that he succeeded in preventing the manuscript's ever going to press. It was not published until years after the death of Castellio. Nevertheless, Castellio's life had been so exemplary, and he was so beloved in Basle that in spite of the fulminations from Geneva, they took no action against him, until a conjunction of events ten years later gave the town council at Basle an excuse and Geneva the opportunity to demand that this man also be brought to the stake.


Sebastian Castellio was at last arrested in the year 1563, on trumped-up charges now known to be false. The central charge was heresy. But because Basle loved and honored him so, instead of clapping him into jail, they let him remain at his home. And there, by the grace of God, he died at the age of forty-eight, long before his time, snatched from the relentless Calvin, and saved from the flames by the fact that his body was worn out with toil and that his spirit was weary of the fight. Gentle, and lacking in all contentiousness, he never understood the unremitting opposition which had pursued him since he first proposed to Calvin the publishing of a Bible in French, a proposal he had made to the man whom he thought would bring enlightenment, tolerance and love to Switzerland and to Europe.




You may well ask why four hundred years later we should bother to review the tragic yet thrilling events of this man's life. There are two reasons. In the first place, Castellio was one of those individuals in the annals of men who saw the need to pursue a dangerous course, and who had the courage to do it. He need not have run any risk at all. At any point in his life, Castellio might have stepped aside and have avoided the fate which finally came to him. Back in Geneva, he need only have said to Calvin, "I don't care how you revise this translation of mine—I just want to get it published.” Many of us would have regarded that as the sensible and practical thing to have done. Back in Geneva, he might have said, "Well, I guess I overspoke my piece about the 'Song of Songs.' Probably it really is just an allegory after all.” That would have seemed sensible and practical to a lot of people too. The record is clear as to what would have happened had he done so. He would then have been assigned an excellent prebend in the city of Geneva, where he could have lived in comfort and security the rest of his life. With his great abilities, he could easily have become an honored and distinguished citizen, and a member of the all-powerful Consistory.


Again, he need not have spoken when Servetus went to the stake. He need not have published the De Haereticis, when Calvin's Defensio was already in circulation. That would have been the most sensible of all, for now the great Calvin was quite obviously aroused. He could have kept quiet, and continued in his position of security and honor as professor of Greek at the University of Basle, but he didn't. This is what makes him great, both now and in his own time. It is probably true that he could never have been persuaded to enter the lists against Calvin, had not the issue been so great. As a man who was temperamentally a peacemaker, it seems certain that he would gladly have remained in obscurity as a teacher, if someone else had been willing to enter the fray. But no one else dared speak, so Castellio spoke. Whether any church ever sainted Castellio or not, and none ever has, he stands out as one of the saints of the race.


In the second place, Castellio is of the utmost importance because his writings constitute one of the focal points of the thought of the west. Castellio could see that in Calvin's defense of the execution of Servetus, a fundamental issue had arisen. In defending his actions, Calvin was saying in effect, the Reformation is just like the church we tried to reform. Heresy within our church, as in the old church, is something that cannot be tolerated—to the stake with anyone who disagrees. In that point of view, Castellio could see the destruction of everything that the Reformation really stood for. The Reformation was to have brought about "the freedom of the Christian man.” Yet here was a new enslavement worse than the old, worse because the dictatorship in Geneva was more tyrannical than any tyranny that Rome ever practiced, even though morally it was far superior. Castellio saw that the west stood at the crossroads, when Calvin tried to justify the burning of Servetus.


Europe seemed to forget Castellio, after Calvin succeeded in silencing him, but it never quite did. A generation later, the issue of religious freedom and tolerance was being debated in the lowlands. There was the party that wanted strict Calvinism, and there was the other party that wanted to move toward freedom—the first vision of the Reformation. The Calvinist party cited the arguments of Calvin and Beza, but their opponents remembered this figure back in Basle by the name of Castellio. They circulated his books, reproduced his arguments, and finally went back to Basle, where they found his writings in the library. They took them to Holland, and in the year 1603, Contra Libellum Calvini, "Against the Libels of Calvin,” was published for the first time. His tract, Concerning Heretics, was also republished. These works were responsible more than anything else for introducing the Reformation into Holland as a movement that was tolerant and free.


You remember who was in Holland in the year 1603. Among those who had fled to the lowlands because of the religious liberty possible there was the little band of Pilgrims, who came ultimately to Plymouth and who brought to America the vision of free religion, the vision which, planted upon the fruitful soil of a new continent, has grown into the beautiful flower we now behold in our midst.


Sebastian Castellio towers over his more famous contemporaries because of the conjunction in him of these two singular qualities. He alone among the men of his time seems to have understood the full implication of the Reformation, and to have had the courage to utter what he saw when it was dangerous to do so. Many of the men of his day felt as he did. The criticism of Calvin circulating in Geneva and Europe, which resulted in his writing a book in his own defense was doubtless similar to that expressed by Castellio. It was the age of the Renaissance. Ideas of intellectual freedom, of investigation and discovery, of the integrity of the individual mind were in the air. The basic structure of Castellio's thought was that which was beginning to be accepted in western Europe in his time. His thoughts must have been shared by many men of his day.


And on the other hand, he was by no means the only example of moral courage in his day either. Martyrs to the cause of right and truth had bravely died by the thousands during his own lifetime. Castellio, as we have seen, was not called upon to forfeit his life. What made Castellio's contribution singularly great was the fact that his supremely penetrating intellect was backed up by great moral courage and a warm regard for his fellow man, which was its animating force. He was a deeply religious man. Intellect without courage is useless: courage without intellect is folly. But when both are combined in a single man and that man also has warm human qualities, infused with a highly spiritual nature, the world rides forward upon his shoulders.


Castellio forged the modern doctrine of tolerance upon the anvil of Protestant conservatism. Heated white hot by the calumnies of Calvin and the tragedy of Servetus, his formulation was then tempered in the cold bath of reason. The result was an arsenal of weapons which fighters for freedom in religion have not ceased to use down to the present day. It is time that those who daily restate the arguments he fashioned knew of Sebastian Castellio. It is time that men who stroll down the broad highway of religious liberty, which was blazed as a trail by Castellio, should pause to acknowledge their indebtedness to him. Now, four hundred years after, we should know him for what he was, honor him for what he did and begin to call him by his name. Sebastian Castellio, we who have all unknowingly followed in thy footsteps salute thee, and henceforth shall call thee blessed.