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although , perhaps , every theologian would have had no objection to employ coercion against his antagonist , yet that being in most cases impossible , he was obliged to appeal to reason .
How slowly , and with what reluctance , polemical disputes were submitted to the arbitration of reason ; how much , divines preferred scurrility and declamation to argument , they well know who have read the works of the early controversialists . No sect
was willing to accord to others the rights which they claimed for themselves * The motives to persecution , which the church had furnished from interest , were now supplied , though happily in a less degree , by the violence of party feeling ; and although the
way to truth and liberty had , by the destruction of the Church of Rome , been opened , the advances yet made were tardy and uncertain . The first writer who pleaded the cause of religious freedom upon broad grounds was Acontius . * It is
impos-* Acontius , or Aconzio , was born at Trent early in the 16 th century . He came to England and had a pension from Queen Elizabeth ; but not , as it should seem from his epistle to Wolfius , for his great work the Stratagemata SatancB , but for
his knowledge of the art of fortification . His book drew upon him the hatred of many of the Protestants . Rivetus accuses him of being the forerunner or fellow-soldier of the Socinians , although his creed , which Acontius gives at length , shews him to have been an Arian .
Arminius , however , much to his honour , warmly admired his work , and calls him divinum pnidentice et moderationis lumen . —Bayle . Ramus , who was killed in the massacre of Paris , has also testified his admiration of Acontius , as did Commenius in his preface to hi 3 Epitome of Natural Philosophy .
The four first books of the Stratagemata Satance were translated into English , and published in 1648 , by John Goodwin , under the title of " Satan ' s Stratagems , or the Devil ' s Cabinet Council discovered . " I suppose the book had not
a very rapid sale , for in the year 1651 , 1 find a copy of the same impression with a new title-page , and a recommendatoiy letter from Mr . John Drury , one of the Assembly of Ministers , to Mr . Samuel Hartlib . The book is now called "
Darkness Discovered , or the Devil ' s Secret Stratagems laid open . " Goodwin certainly was not very happy in either of his attempts .
sibLe to read the work of this great man , without being delighted with the amiable and enlightened spirit whic h One would almost as soon think of looking for wit in the " Fun Box broke Open , " or for natural philosophy in " The High German Conjuror ' s Last Legacy , " as for the powerful reasoning of Acontius , under
such a disguise . His own title was sufficiently quaint , it required no amplification . Goodwin , however , was worthy of the cause . His Epistle to the Reader proves him to be firmly attached to the great principles of religious liberty . " If men" ( says he ) " would call more for
light and less for fire from heaven , their warfare against such enemies would be much sooner accomplished . " For he that denied the one hath promised the other . ( Prov . ii . 3—5 ; James i . 5 . ) And amongst all weapons there is none like unto light to fight against darkness . But whilst men arm themselves
against Satan with the material sword , they do but ensure his victory and triumph . "—Epistle to the Reader . Goodwin ' s name was excepted from the act of oblivion . Since I wrote this paper , my attention
has been called to a most valuable article , which 1 regret I did not read at an earlier period , The Nonconformist , No . XV . ( XIV . 680 . ) I must request the reader to turn there for an interesting account of the early friends to religious freedom on the continent . He will find that I
have been in error in giving precedence to Acontius , and as great part of his merit depended on his leading the way to liberality , I am compelled to admit , that if I were to write again it would be necessary for me to qualify a little my admiration of him . From the learned
author of the paper to which i refer , I am indebted for the following additional information respecting the sentiments of several writers mentioned in that article . I wish this gentleman could be prevailed upon to supply that great desideratum in English literature—a complete history of Religious Liberty . The work would be worthy of his talents . At page 741 the reader will see a reference to a work on
toleration , which Bayle attributes to Castalio . It was printed at Magdeburg in 1554 , eleven years before the first edition of the Stratagemata Satance > by Acontius , whicli appeared at Basle in 1565 . Cas-» ^ r » . - m • £ * 9 k . 4 . __* f 4 talio fers to of Aretiu
re the opinions s , Catharus , Joannes Witlengius and Basilius Mentfortius , so that he was not the first who embraced liberal opinions . Who and what they were I know pot ; Bayle does not mention their names .
456 The Nonconformist . No . XXL
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Aug. 2, 1821, page 456, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2503/page/16/