Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE SOCINIANS, OR ARIANS, OR ANTITRINITARIANS. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XIX (Philosophical Letters)
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THE SOCINIANS, OR ARIANS, OR ANTITRINITARIANS. - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XIX (Philosophical Letters) 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. XIX.
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THE SOCINIANS, OR ARIANS, OR ANTITRINITARIANS.
There is a little sect here, composed of clergymen, and a few of the most learned of the laity, who neither assume the name of Arians or Socinians, and yet are directly opposite in union to St. Athanasius with regard to the Trinity; not scrupling to declare frankly that the Father is greater than the Son.
Do you remember what is related of a certain orthodox bishop, who, in order to convince an emperor of the reality of consubstantiation, put his hand under the chin of the monarch’s son and gave him a tweak by the nose in presence of his most sacred majesty. The emperor was going to order his attendants to throw the bishop out of the window, when the good old man gave him this polite and convincing reason: “Since your majesty,” says he, “is angry when your son has not due respect shown him, what punishment do you think will God the Father inflict on those who refuse His Son Jesus the titles due to Him?” The persons I am speaking of declare that the holy bishop was a rash old fool; that his argument was by no means conclusive; and that his imperial majesty should have answered him in this manner: “Learn that there are two ways by which men may be wanting in the respect they owe to me; first, in not doing honor sufficient to my son; and, secondly, in paying him the same honors as you do me.”
Be this as it will, the principles of Arius began to revive, not only in England, but in Holland and Poland. The celebrated Sir Isaac Newton honored this opinion so far as to countenance it. This philosopher thought that the Unitarians argued more mathematically than we do; but the most zealous stickler for Arianism is the illustrious Dr. Clarke. This man is rigidly virtuous and of a mild disposition; is more fond of his tenets than desirous of propagating them; and so totally absorbed in problems and calculations that he is a mere reasoning machine. He wrote a book, which is very much esteemed and little understood, on the “Existence of God”; and another, more intelligible, indeed, but pretty much contemned, on the “Truth of the Christian Religion.”
He never engaged in those curious scholastic disputes which our friend calls “venerable trifles.” He only published a work containing all the testimonies of the primitive ages, for and against the Unitarians, and leaves to the reader the counting of the voices and the liberty of passing sentence. This book won the doctor a great number of partisans and lost him the archbishopric of Canterbury; for when Queen Anne was about to bestow that see on him, a reverend doctor, whose name was Gibson, for certain reasons known to himself, and which were doubtless very good ones, observed to her majesty that Dr. Clarke was undoubtedly the most learned and upright man in the kingdom, and that he wanted only one qualification to be the most deserving object of her majesty’s gracious favor. “And pray what is that, doctor?” asked the queen. “May it please your majesty, to be a Christian,” replied the humane and benevolent priest. In my opinion, Dr. Clarke was a little out in his calculation, and had better have been an orthodox primate of all England than a mere Arian curate.
You see that opinions are subject to as many revolutions as empires. Arianism, after having triumphed during three centuries, and having been buried in oblivion for twelve, rises at length out of its own ashes; but it has chosen a very improper time to make its appearance in the present age, being quite cloyed with disputes and sects. The members of this sect are as yet too few to be indulged the liberty of holding public assemblies, which, however, they will doubtless be permitted to do, in case they spread considerably; but people nowadays are so cold with respect to all things of this kind, that there is little probability of making a fortune, either in a new religion, or in one revived. Is it not whimsical enough that Luther, Calvin, and Zuinglius, whose writings nobody now reads, should have founded sects that are at present spread over a great part of Europe? That Mahomet, though so ignorant, should have given a religion to Asia and Africa? and that Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. Clarke, Mr. Locke, Mr. Le Clerc, and others, the greatest philosophers, as well as the ablest writers of their ages, should scarcely have been able to raise a better flock. This it is to be born at a proper period of time. Were Cardinal de Retz to return again into the world, he would not draw ten women in Paris after him; were Oliver Cromwell, he who beheaded his sovereign and seized upon the regal dignity, to rise from the dead, he would be a wealthy city trader, and nothing more.