Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/539

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523
MICHAEL SERVETUS.

of looking first for the historical and literal meaning is the method of the modern school of scriptural exegesis.

The book which immediately brought about the imprisonment and death of Servetus was called Christianismi Restitutio—the Restoration of Christianity. It contained, besides a series of chapters setting forth the various theological tenets of the author, thirty letters addressed to Calvin. The views of the writer, although fantastical, and in many instances unintelligible, often exhibit a broad and tolerant spirit, and always breathe intense earnestness. He appears to have felt himself impelled to propagate his opinions on these theological matters, and to have come to regard this as his mission in life, which must be fulfilled at any risk. So much, at least, is clear from the invocation to Christ, with which he closes his introduction. "Thou hast taught us that the light is not to be hidden, so woe to me unless I evangelize."[1] He seems even to have thought that he had his vocation shadowed out to him in his name. The angel Michael led the embattled hosts of heaven to war against the dragon; and he, Michael Servetus, had been chosen to lead the angels on earth against Antichrist!

This book is now one of the rarest in the world. Two copies only are known to be extant—one at Paris and another at Vienna. A copy of the latter, printed in 1790, is in the British Museum.

In this work, while writing on the Trinity (Book V), Servetus introduces certain physiological statements in order to illustrate some of his theological speculations. The passage, although lost to the world for nearly a century and a half, has long ago become famous. It was first brought to light in Wotton's Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning, published in London in 1694. It proves that the knowledge which Servetus possessed of the way by which the blood passed from the right to the left side of the heart was in advance of his time, and a step beyond that reached by Galen. The latter had taught that the blood, for the most part, passed through the septum, from one side of the heart to the other. Servetus wrote: "This communication" (i. e., from the right ventricle of the heart to the left) "does not take place through the septum, partition, or midwall of the heart, as commonly believed, but by another admirable contrivance, the blood being transmitted from the pulmonary artery to the pulmonary vein, by a lengthened passage through the lungs, in the course of which it is elaborated and becomes of a crimson color. Mingled with the inspired air in this passage, and freed from fuliginous


  1. "Lucemam non esse abscondendam, tu nos docuisti, ut væ mihi sit nisi evangelizem." Christ. Restit., p. 2.