Church co-operated with the State to put down sin, the one with spiritual weapons, the other with the material sword. The moral force assisted the State, the physical force assisted the Church. A scheme substantially the same was introduced by Capito at Frankfort in 1535.
But the secret of Calvin's later influence is that he claimed for the Church more independence than he obtained. The surging theory of State omnipotence did not affect his belief in the principle of self-government. Through him an idea of mutual check was introduced which became effective at a later time, though nothing more unlike liberty could be found than the state of Geneva when he was the most important man there. Every ascertainable breach of divine law was punished with rigour. Political error was visited with the sword, and religious error with the stake. In this spirit Calvin carried out his scheme of a Christian society and crushed opposition. Already, before he came, the Council had punished vice with imprisonment and exile, and the idea was traceable back to the Middle Ages. It had never found so energetic an advocate.
The crown was set upon the system by the trial and execution of Servetus. The Germans, in their aversion for metaphysics, had avoided the discussion of questions regarding the Trinity, which in the south of Europe excited more attention. As early as 1531, long before the rise of the Socinians, the Spaniard Servetus taught anti-Trinitarianism, and continued to do it for more than twenty years. He remained isolated, and it was not until after his death that his opinions attracted followers. Calvin, who thought him dangerous, both by his doctrines and his talent, declared that if ever he came to Geneva he would never leave it alive. He caused him to be denounced to the Inquisition, and he was imprisoned at Vienne on the Rhone, tried, and condemned to be burnt at a slow fire, on evidence supplied by Calvin in seventeen letters. Servetus escaped, and on his way to Italy stopped at Geneva, under a false name, for he knew who it was that had set the machinery of the Holy Office in motion against