Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/10

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MODERN RATIONALISM.

to pass more extensively into the ranks of the laity, who were naturally more ready to express their scepticism than the professional theological caste. Secular sciences, history, and physics began to breathe freely at last and develop in utter disregard of religious doctrines. Printing was introduced; a religious controversy thus obtained an infinitely wider audience than it had had formerly, and the writings of sceptics were universally diffused. The destruction of a venerable authority, the violent changes of theological schemes, the deafening roar of controversy, the accumulation of diverse and contradictory opinions, tended to produce distrust in the educated and bewilderment in the uneducated. Such, briefly, were the predisposing conditions of modern Rationalism.

One important Rationalistic school, Socinianism, the revival of Arianism, and predecessor of modern Unitarianism, dates from the time of the Reformation itself. Still, it is only attributable to the Reformation in the sense that that movement afforded it some liberty of utterance and expansion. It may easily be traced through the Italian-Greeks of the Renaissance to the earlier Greek heresy; if, indeed, it may not be said to voice the unceasing impatience of the mind in all ages under the Christian mysteries, especially the dogma of the Trinity. This time, however, the system came to stay, and it has played a most important part in the rationalization of theology. But the broader Rationalistic movement soon began in earnest with the appearance of isolated writers of great authority, of enduring influence, and often of the most destructive scepticism. In 1588 Montaigne published the first great sceptical work of a thoroughly Pyrrhonist character. A literary critic of profound influence, he was in effect a Rationalist of the most advanced type; his essays were the inauguration of the modern period of Freethought. He was warmly supported by Charron, a French priest, and is even said to have profoundly influenced Pascal. Descartes