Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chapter 9 Part 1

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 9, Part 1 of 3.

This biography of James Arminius was written in Latin by Caspar Brandt, published by Gerard Brandt in 1724, and translated to English by John Guthrie in 1854.



A few weeks after the curators of the University had, by convening the professors of theology, succeeded in maintaining Academic peace, the Synod of South Holland, which met at Rotterdam on the 30th August, 1605, proceeded to agitate measures in connexion with this business, of a much more impetuous description. After the delegates from the Classis of Dort had put them in possession of the grounds on which the above-named gravamen had been transmitted, and the deputies of the Synod had in like manner made them aware of the state of the Leyden Academy, and of their interview with Arminius and the rest of the professors, they decided, after mature deliberation, that a timely check ought to be opposed to this growing evil, and that the appropriate remedy ought not to be delayed under the uncertain hope of a National Synod. It was accordingly concluded to institute, by means of their deputies, a very strict inquiry into what articles in particular furnished matter of debate among the theological students in the Leyden Academy; and to request the honourable curators to make it imperative on the professors of theology to declare openly and sincerely their own opinions respecting the same [Vid. prefat. Act. Synod. Dord.].

In fulfilment of this decree, the synodical deputies, Francis Lansbergius, Festus Hommius, and their associates, set out for Leyden, and on the 2nd November handed in nine questions to the curators respecting the points which, as they understood, constituted at this time the main subjects of discussion. They at the same time requested that, in virtue of their authority, the curators would render it imperative on the professors of theology fully to unfold their own opinion on these points. But the honourable curators looked upon this demand as preposterous, inasmuch as the professors themselves had informed them in writing, not long before, of the state and weight of the controversies referred to. They therefore openly declared 'that to this mode of procedure they could by no means lend their sanction;' and added 'that there was no small ground for the hope that a National Synod would be obtained; on which account they judged it to be more advisable to reserve these questions to it, than by further investigation of them to furnish occasion for strife.' [Vid. Declar. Arm. coram, Ord.]. On receiving this answer the deputies further insisted, that by the kind permission of the curators they might be at liberty to put these questions to the professors concerned, in order to discover what answers each of them would voluntarily and spontaneously give; but here they encountered the same repulse.

All these transactions, however, were managed with such secrecy, as respects Arminius, that he was for some time ignorant of the arrival of these deputies in the city, and was only subsequently made aware of it through his friends. By the diligence of these friends he also succeeded in laying his hands upon the very questions which the deputies of the churches had handed in to the curators; and thence snatched occasion to draw up, for the benefit of his disciples, brief answers to these, and to array in opposition to them as many questions in return [Vide sis has quaestiones et Arminii responsa in ejus Eperibus.].

Circumstanced as he was at such a conjuncture, he could not suppress his feelings, but gave vent to them in the following complaint in regard to his position, which occurs in a letter to Uitenbogaert, dated 27th October, 1605:— 'How difficult is it in these inauspicious times, when such vehemence of spirit prevails, to be thoroughly devoted at once to truth and to peace! Were it not that the consciousness of integrity, the favourable judgments of some good men, yea, and the palpable and manifest fruits which I see arising from my labours, reanimate my spirits, I should scarcely at times be able to bear myself erect. But thanks be to God who imparts strength and constancy to my spirit, and makes me comparatively easy whatever may be the issue.' [Arm. Epist. ad J. Uitenb. 27 Octob. 1605.]

Notwithstanding these annoyances, Arminius [Via Ep. Eccles. p. 149.] strenuously discharged the duties of his office; and endeavoured, above all, to propagate increasingly the truth, as far as known by him, without noise or contention, to the utmost of his power. For this end he made it his study, on all occasions, to keep himself within the terms of the Confession and Catechism — at least not to advance anything which might be confuted by these standards, nay which was not fairly and plainly reconcilable therewith. For although in these formularies of consent he had probably observed some things which at times appeared to favour the sentiments opposed to those he had embraced, and which he could have wished to find expressed in terms more closely harmonising with his own opinion, he yet thought he could continue within these terms; and that, under the privilege of a mild interpretation, he ought to soften the harshness of certain phrases, and wait until a fuller interpretation and revision should be applied to them by a National Synod. For he thought that he could act thus in the exercise of the same right as that by which all those followers of Calvin who were subjects of the Emperor of Germany judged that they could lawfully, and with a good conscience, subscribe to the entire Confession of Augsburg, and to all and sundry of the articles it contained [Vid. Epiat. Examen contra Capel. in Oper. ejus i. Tom. 2. part. p. 168.]. This, however, without the aid of a liberal interpretation was more than they could well do; for between the Augsburg and other Confessions there was so great an air of contradiction that the Genevan divines did not think it advisable to publish them without the antidote of their own interpretations and cautions. Treading in their foot-prints, and rejoicing in the same right, he felt that he was doing nothing whatever unworthy of a Reformed divine if, for the confirmation of his own opinion on Divine predestination, and other heads of the Christian faith, he should call to his aid not only the Sacred Oracles, but also the above-named formularies of consent. It was for this reason that, when about to hold a disputation at one time in his own regular class on the subject of predestination, he ordered the student who was to undertake the part of respondent to shape his theses on this subject in the very words of the Confession [Ex Declar. Arm. coram Ord.].

About that same period he held a very learned disputation on the comparison between the law and the gospel, and on the agreement and difference between the Old Testament and the New; the part of respondent, under his presidency, having fallen on that highly-cultivated youth, and distinguished ornament at an after period to the Leyden Academy and to literature — Peter Cunaeus. Towards the close of this disputation some one happened to object 'that man could not but transgress the law, seeing that the decree of God, which determined that he should transgress, could not be resisted.' Although Arminius was under the necessity of replying to this objection, yet he made it imperative that in future no such statement should be advanced without this or the like protestation: Let no blasphemy be supposed! So offensive, moreover, was that audacious proposition of this student of divinity to some who had been present at the disputation, that one of them, a man of no small authority, shortly after expressed his loathing of it in the presence of Arminius; and gave it as his counsel that things of that sort ought to be checked, and authority interposed against such disgraceful objections. Arminius, however, somewhat excused the deed, declaring that the objector had been so instructed by certain divines; and that authoritative interference was scarcely practicable, on account of the vehemence of some who were of a different, mind [Ex Epist. Arm.].

Meanwhile he was inspired with a greatly increased measure of firmness and confidence by the very large number of auditors whom the singular grace of his style, both of speaking and teaching, and his lucid interpretation of the Sacred Writings, daily attracted to his public lectures. His private class, moreover, flourished at this time to such a degree, that one class would not have sufficed but for the fear which had taken possession of many, that too much familiarity with him might turn out, at some future period, to be prejudicial to their interests. Hence, as envy is proverbially the evil genius, for the most part, not only of virtue but also of genuine erudition, it can hardly appear surprising to any one if Arminius, by reason of his daily increasing renown for learning, was obliged, in his turn, to encounter this hydra. The extent, at all events, to which, in that particular, Gomarus shared in the infirmity of our common nature, may be inferred from this circumstance: accosting Arminius one day as he was passing out of the academic hall, he threw this in his teeth with abundant bitterness and bile — 'They say you are more learned than Junius.'

About the same time, Peter Plancius, pastor of the church in Amsterdam, inveighed from the pulpit in the most virulent strain against Arminius and his friends and followers, running them down under the name of Coornhertians, Neo-Pelagians, and as far worse than Pelagius himself. So effervescent was he, that he appeared, even to vulgar minds, to have excited himself into extravagance, so as to connect things together which bore to each other no just relation of sequence or coherence. Others, too, after his example, either incensed by an inveterate hatred against Arminius, or impelled by the sort of pious solicitude with which they embraced the received doctrine, began to agitate before the people, in the vernacular tongue, those questions which had furnished themes of more subtle disputation in the benches of the Academy: and this they did with egregious departures from the truth, and with minds as little as possible attuned to the work of meekly edifying the Christian people [Ex Epist. Arm.—Vid. Respons. ad Epist. Minist. Walachriens. p. 9.]. Some assiduously impressed it upon the promiscuous multitude that the doctrine of the Belgic Confession, sealed with the blood of many martyrs, was being called in question; others that a motley religion was in the course of being drawn up, and that it was in contemplation to introduce a system of libertinism. On the other hand, Arminius, finding himself under the imperative necessity of vindicating his own innocence, both publicly and privately, pleaded his cause at this conjuncture, in a remarkably calm and placid spirit; for (to use his own words) he 'reckoned this to be by far the noblest kind of revenge, to bring it about, by means of well-doing, that they should have the worse who spurned at proffered friendship and fraternity.' Moreover, in order to possess the minds of the students with the genuine love of peace, he judged that nothing ought more to be impressed upon them than that they should endeavour to distinguish, according to the standard of the Sacred Word, not only between truth and falsehood, but also between the greater and less degrees in which different articles of religion are to be held as essential [Ex. Epist. Arm.].

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chapter 8 Part 3

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 8, Part 3 of 3.

This biography of James Arminius was written in Latin by Caspar Brandt, published by Gerard Brandt in 1724, and translated to English by John Guthrie in 1854.

Somewhat similar, about this time, was the treatment experienced by Abraham Vlietius, from Voorburg, who, besides attending Kuchlinus, availed himself also of the instructions of Arminius. At a public disputation held on the 30th April, under the presidency of Gomarus, on the subject of Divine Providence [Vid. Epist. Arm.], Vlietius, according to the custom of the Academy, and for the sake of exercising his powers, advanced, in a tone of sufficient moderation, certain solid arguments against the theses that were subjected to discussion. By this act he stirred the bile of the distinguished president to such a degree, that not content with replying to the objector in very acrimonious terms, he proceeded, with mind and feature thoroughly discomposed, and with little attempt at disguise, to traduce Arminius, who, he presumed—incorrectly, however—was the artificer and prompter of the objections in question. Arminius, who was present at this scene, bore with tranquil mind the insult thus perpetrated upon himself and his disciple, and judged it best to put up with it in silence. But when by this transaction Vlietius had drawn on himself the odium of many, as if his intention had been to excite an uproar, Arminius, to prevent the affair from entailing any injury on his beloved disciple, cheerfully interposed in support of his wronged reputation, with the following testimonial:—

'That Abraham Vlietius, in a disputation concerning Divine Providence held on the 30th April, 1605, was bound, from the office he then undertook in the college of disputants, to offer objections; and that, in objecting, he kept himself within the bounds of modesty, and advanced nothing unworthy either of himself or his auditory, and consequently gave no just occasion of complaint, I hereby testify as requested.'

'James Arminius,'
'Rector of the Academy for the time being, and myself an eye and ear witness.' [Ex ipso Arm. autograph.].

At the same time, moreover, in which these things happened, a somewhat serious annoyance was stirred against Arminius by his uncle and colleague, John Kuchlinus, Regent of the Theological Faculty. This person, under the pretext of an ardent zeal for the maintenance of the truth, and in opposition to novel doctrines and the active emissaries of innovation; and also of an apprehension lest the flower of their youth and the hope of the Church should be imbued with pernicious errors, left no stone unturned by which he might drive all the students of the Theological College away from the prelections of Arminius [Ex Epist. Arm.]. Accordingly, changing the hour for his own prelections, he chose the very hour in which Arminius had been accustomed to hold his, as that in which he would expound the several heads of the Belgic Confession; and he ordered all the students to be present at these academical exercises. This attempt, however, the subject of our memoir very spiritedly withstood; and having lodged a complaint respecting it to the honourable magistrates of the city of Leyden, he succeeded in getting the whole affair deferred until the next arrival of the curators of the Academy.

Meanwhile, in order to counteract with all his might the calumnies of those who flung against him the charge of error on the subject of Divine Providence, he held a public disputation on the 4th May, 1605, 'Concerning the righteousness and efficacy of Divine Providence respecting evil;' and, as may be seen in his polished theses on that subject, he very learnedly explained in what manner it had to do, not only with the beginning, but also with the progress and with the end of sin. Making allusion in another place [In his letter to Hippolytus a Collibus.] to this circumstance and that controversy, he observes: 'There are two stumbling-blocks against which I am solicitously on my guard — not to make God the author of sin, and not to do away with the freedom inherent in the human will: which two things if any one knows to avoid, there is no action he shall imagine which I will not most cheerfully allow to be ascribed to the Providence of God, if due regard be only had to the divine excellence.'

Shortly after the Academy had listened to his discussion on the subject of Divine Providence, Arminius, with the view of clearing himself of the charge of Pelagianism, produced and exposed for public examination, on the 23rd July, his theses 'concerning free will and its powers.' In drawing up these he declared, 'that his grand aim had been to promote the peace of the Church; that he had set forth nothing which bordered on falsehood, but, on the contrary, had suppressed several truths to which he was prepared to give expression, being well aware that it was one mode of procedure to suppress what was true, and another to speak what was false: the latter was in no case lawful; the former, however, was sometimes, yea very often, expedient.' [Ex Arm. Epist. 25 Julii script.]. Moreover, as he deemed it his duty to act cautiously, and take the utmost possible care that the justice of his cause and the moderation of his spirit might commend themselves to good and prudent men, he offered on every occasion to all who were meditating strife with him, what he had formerly offered to Helmichius and others — a conference, whether private or public, on the subject of these theological controversies.

This method, however, was not quite agreeable to the adversaries of Arminius; it pleased them to ply him with another mode of attack. They sent to him, accordingly, these deputies of the churches of South and North Holland, Francis Lansbergius, Libertus Fraxinus, Daniel Dolegius, John Bogardus, and James Dolandus, who arrived on the 30th June (1605). In explaining to him the object of their mission, they entered into a narration of those things which were extensively circulated concerning him and his doctrine; and how great was the solicitude felt by all the churches lest, the integrity of the Reformed doctrine being undermined, and the young men imbued with unsound opinions, this affair should at last eventuate in the destruction of the Church. They further stated that several candidates for the sacred office, when admitted at any time to examination before their classis, gave answers altogether new and repugnant to the received doctrine, and sheltered themselves under the authority of Arminius [Ex Declarat. Arm. coram Ordinib.—Vide et Prajfat. Act. Synod. Dord]. They then begged of Arminius that he would not refuse to give an explanation of the matter, and to enter into a friendly conference with them.

Arminius replied, 'that this mode of procedure was to him in the highest degree displeasing. For were he to submit to it, he would be obliged very often to descend to conferences of this sort; nor would he ever be free from liability to this annoyance as often as any student in his examination, in giving some novel answer, should make a foolish appeal to the authority of his preceptor. To him, therefore, it appeared to be a more advisable course, that brethren, on hearing a novel answer of such a kind as seemed to be at variance with the Confession or Catechism of the Reformed Churches, ought immediately to confront that student with himself, he for his part being prepared, for the sake of expediting the business, to repair at his own expense to whatever place the brethren might choose.'

Not content, however, with this general answer, Lansbergius, in name of the rest, pressed still more urgently the conference proposed, when the subject of our memoir gave this further reply: 'He did not see on what principle he could enter into that conference. For, seeing that they bore the title of deputies, and would render an account of their proceedings to the synod, he was not at liberty to enter upon this business without the cognizance and consent, yea even the command, of those to whose authority he was subject. Nay more; no trivial hazard would thence accrue to himself, if, whatever might at any time be reported to the synod, as to the issue of this conference, he should be obliged to commit the whole detail entirely to their faith. Besides, as he was by no means conscious of having ever taught any doctrine which was antagonistic to the Sacred Writings, the Confession, or the Catechism, he did not see on what reasons this petition of theirs was grounded. The burden of proof devolved on those who asserted the contrary; or, failing proof, of confessing their fault. If, however, they were disposed to lay aside the character of deputies, he would not shrink from holding a conference about doctrine with them as private pastors, and from descending into that arena, there and then: — but on this condition, that whatever liberty in expounding their own opinion, and refuting the contrary, they vindicated for themselves, that self-same liberty should be competent to him. If in this way either party should satisfy the other, the entire business would be transacted; if it came short of this, it must be understood, that no report of it shall anywhere be rendered, but that the whole shall be referred to a National Council.' But at last, when he perceived that that plan and that condition were rejected by them, he asked them, as they were ready to take their departure, that they would propose the same conference which they had demanded of him, to his colleagues as well, Gomarus and Trelcatius; adding, and adducing many reasons in corroboration of the statement, that he had not given greater occasion for this demand than either of them. The deputies then promised to comply with this request, and having informed Arminius, some time after, that they had implemented their promise, they departed without having effected their object.

Meanwhile Arminius could not prevent the circulation of very various and frequent rumours respecting this affair; many in bad faith making it known, but suppressing all mention of his reasons for rejecting this conference, and of the description of conference which he himself had proposed. But these and other reasons which deterred him from formal conferences of that sort with synodical deputies, he explained on a subsequent occasion much more fully and distinctly in the presence of the illustrious States of Holland. His reasons as then advanced were in substance as follows.

'First, He did not reckon himself amenable to either Synod of Holland, South or North; on the contrary, he had other masters without whose consent and command it would have been unlawful in him to have engaged in such a conference. To this reason may be added

'A second, namely, the great inequality of such a conference; considering that between those who are about to confer on whatever matters, the utmost equality ought to subsist. For it is evident that they came to him armed with a certain public authority, while he sustained the character only of a private individual. They were in number several, but he stood alone; not only destitute of persons to aid him, but of persons to witness the proceedings contemplated. Nay more, these deputies were not there in their own right, but were obliged to hang by the judgment of their superiors, and defend their opinion concerning religion to the last extremity; so much so, indeed, that they could not have been at liberty to admit the force even of the strongest arguments which he could have adduced. As he, on the other hand, stood on his own right, he was in a condition, by bringing his conscience alone to decide, unfettered by the prejudgment of any one, to admit whatever it might have declared to him, on demonstrative grounds, to have been in accordance with truth.

'Thirdly, The report which these deputies would have given in to their superiors, after the conference had been held, could not but turn out in many respects to his serious injury; for, either by defect of understanding or of memory, or by prejudiced feelings, some things might easily have been added or omitted, and his words might have been repeated either in such a sense, or in such an order, as altogether to contradict his sentiments, and the actual facts of the case; while a larger measure of credit would have been accorded to these deputies, than would have been accorded to him, a private individual. Nay more; in this way he would have conceded to this ecclesiastical convention a certain prerogative over him, which, however, in his judgment he could not rightly concede, consistently with the dignity of his office, and the authority of those on whose power he was dependent.' [Vid. Declarat. Arm. coram Ordinib.].

Such were the reasons which induced Arminius to decline entering into conferences of the kind proposed. In what light he regarded the perverse machinations of certain parties at this conjuncture he himself thus declares in a letter to Adrian Borrius, of date July 25, 1605: 'I see right well that my adversaries act in this way to raise a tumult in order that I, accused of being at least the occasion of the disturbance, may be compelled to rush forth from my concealment, and declare myself openly; in which event they seem to promise themselves certain victory. But so much the more on this account will I keep myself at home, and advance those things which in my judgment may best do service to truth, to peace, and to the times; although I know that they would be disappointed of their hope even were I to declare myself openly to them. True, it is an old saving, that to drag a heretic, or a heresy forth to the light, is to confute that heretic or heresy; but this is the boast also of those who chant paeans before the victory. It were hard for them to convict of heresy those things which, with inflated cheeks they vociferate to be heretical. They complain, I understand, that I did not declare to them my opinion, and the arguments on which it rests; and they urge as a pretext for their complaint, that it is my intention to make an unforeseen attack upon the min the National Synod, and to obtrude opinions upon them of which they had not been aware, and to confirm these by arguments, the confutation of which they shall not have had it in their power to premeditate. They think that that assembly ought to be conducted in the same manner as formerly; and are not aware that I, trusting to the goodness of my conscience and my cause, do not shrink from timely inquiry and examination, even to the most rigorous extent.'

Meanwhile, three days after penning these words, the consistory of Leyden, of which he himself too formed a part, and was regarded as a member, appears to have importunately asked of him, at the instigation of certain zealots, a conference respecting his religious views, not unlike that which the delegates of the churches had demanded. In name of the consistory there were delegated to him, on the 28th July, these honourable and distinguished men, Phaedo Broekhoven and Paul Merula — the one professor of history, the other a burgomaster of the city of Leyden, and both elders of the church — who urged him in gentle terms that he would treat with his colleagues, in the presence of the consistory, concerning those things in the received doctrine to which he took exception. In this way it might be ascertained whether, and in what points, he agreed or disagreed with his colleagues and the other pastors of the Church. They added, however, that if he gave his assent to this petition they would speak with others also respecting the matter; but if not, that no further steps would be taken in the affair. To this Arminius replied almost in the same terms as he had shortly before employed to the deputies of the churches, namely, 'that he could not comply with this demand without the permission of the honourable curators of the Academy; nor could he perceive what benefit would thance accrue to the Church.' These reasons he followed up by others to the same effect, which proved thoroughly satisfactory to these two men; so much so, indeed, that they gave it as their opinion that no further proceedings should be taken in the matter [Ex Arm. declar. coram Ordin. Vid. prefat. Act. Synod. Dord.—Trigland. Hist.].

His adversaries, nevertheless, determined in no respect whatever to intermit their zeal, ceased not to spread, and beyond measure to exaggerate, the rumours afloat as to the very serious dissensions that had arisen between the professors and the pastors of the Church. The result was, that the time being now at hand at which the annual Synod of the churches of North and South Holland respectively were wont to be held, among the other 'gravamina' [That is grievances, and all matters deemed important, whether of the nature of grievances or not.] (as they are called) which, according to the custom of the churches, are commonly sent beforehand by the several classis, this too had been transmitted by the Classis of Dort: 'Whereas reports prevail that in the Academy and Church of Leyden, certain controversies have arisen concerning the doctrine of the Reformed Churches, the Classis is of opinion that it is necessary that the Synod should deliberate as to the means by which these controversies may be most advantageously and speedily allayed; in order that all schisms and scandals which might thence arise may be seasonably put out of the way, and the union of the Reformed Churches be preserved in contrariety to the calumnies of adversaries.' [Ex prefat. Act. Synod. Pord.—Uitcnb. Ilist.]. The author of the preface to the Acts of the Synod of Dort, in making mention of this gravamen, further leaves it on record that Arminius took it in the highest degree amiss, and left no pains untaken by which to get it recalled. That it displeased Arminius, indeed, we are not disposed to deny. But assuredly of any pains he took to get this document recalled, there exists, so far as we are aware, no evidence whatever.

Be this as it may, the honourable curators of the Academy, and magistrates of Leyden, suspecting on good grounds that the above-named article of the Classis of Dort aimed solely at this, that Arminius and his followers should be impeached for corrupt doctrine, concentrated all their counsels and efforts on the one object of getting these schemes crushed in the bud. With this view, they called together the professors of theology, and producing the gravamen above-named, they put to them the question, 'Whether controversies of that description had been observed by them?' To this, after they had obtained a reasonable time for deliberation, and had first considered the matter among themselves, and duly weighed it apart, — Gomarus, Arminius, and Trelcatius, unanimously replied, and straightway (on the 10th of August) confirmed the reply, in its written form, with their respective signatures, 'that they could have wished that the Classis of Dort had acted in this matter in a better and more orderly way; among the students, indeed, there was, they believed, more disputation than was agreeable to them; but among themselves, the professors of theology, there was no dissension, as indeed any one might see, in regard to the fundamentals of doctrine. Further, they would do their endeavour to get whatever discussions of that kind had arisen among the students diminished.' This answer was handed in the same day, to the Rev. John Kuchlinus, Regent of the theological college, who replied that he concurred in what had been advanced by the professors of theology, and subscribed the same declaration [Ex gestis Acad. citatis a Bertio in Orat. Funeb. in obit. Arm.].

But on what principle Gomarus could prevail on himself to sign this testimony, was to not a few just matter of astonishment. For it was notorious that besides assailing the opinion of Arminius on predestination in a public and sufficiently acrimonious disputation, he had also, and that, too, repeatedly, from the pulpit, exaggerated the importance of this controversy to such a degree as to imply that it was in his estimation fundamental [Ex tractatu quodam Bertii, Belgice conscripto.]. Others, again, inferred from this act of Gomarus, that he was disposed at that time, notwithstanding this difference of opinion, to cultivate a true friendship with Arminius, and would actually have done so, had he not heen prevented by the intemperate clamours of others from prosecuting this aim. That Arminius also cherished the same hope is manifest from the following words extracted from a letter he addressed to Uitenbogaert (on the 7th June, 1605):— 'Between Gomarus and me there is peace; and I have reason to believe it will be steady enough, unless he lend an ear to him who seems to act only for this, that he may not be found to have been a false prophet. On the other hand I will do my best to make my moderation and equanimity manifest to all, that I may have the superiority at once in the goodness of my cause, and in my mode of action.' Nor must we omit in this connexion what is reported by not a few, namely that Gomarus himself was wont at times to declare to his intimate friends with a feeling of regret, 'that he could easily have been induced to cultivate peace with Arminius but for the importunity of the churches and their deputies, which threw an obstacle in the way of this salutary desire.' [Ex Hist. narrat. Synod. Dord. Belg. conscript. a J. W.].

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chapter 8 Part 2

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 8, Part 2 of 3.

This biography of James Arminius was written in Latin by Caspar Brandt, published by Gerard Brandt in 1724, and translated to English by John Guthrie in 1854.

His disciples and admirers, however, began in those days to be accused of the same crimes which were imputed to himself; the discourses and arguments by which they sought to establish the doctrines of the Christian faith being subjected to misinterpretation. Hence the rumour gained currency that those who had returned from the Academy, or turned aside to other academies, were wantonly insulting the Reformed Churches, by disputing, contradicting, and vilifying the received doctrine. Nor were there wanting those who, by a certain guileful art, narrowly watched several students of theology that were on more familiar terms with our doctor, and were in the habit of attending his private meetings; and from their answers — which, as may occasionally be expected of very young men, were at tunes somewhat unguarded, and stretched beyond the mind of their master — they snatched a handle and an opportunity of foully traducing, to the people, Arminius himself. More severe investigations, besides, began to be instituted by certain Classes and ecclesiastical assemblies against his disciples: and their words and actions were watched more sternly than was meet.

This was exemplified by the case of John Narsius of Dort, who at this time prosecuted under Arminius the study of theology with a zeal not to be repented of, and who afterwards occupied a position of eminence as pastor of the church at Grave. Being a young man of very practised and highly polished intellect, he was supported, in hope of the Church, at the expense of the State of Amsterdam; and although in the year immediately preceding, on being privately examined by the pastors of this very celebrated city, he had given them the very highest satisfaction, this in no degree availed to exempt him from the suspicion of having imbibed impious opinions from his preceptor. In order, therefore, to elicit his mind, these same clergymen thought proper (on the 13th Jan., 1605) to order certain theological questions to be drawn up in writing, that to these Narsius might reply, also in writing. That the reader may be enabled to judge the more accurately of the controversies agitated at this tune, it may not be out of place here to present these very questions in detail, along with the answers of Narsius himself.

Question I. Whether God so directs and governs the free will of man that he is neither obliged, nor is able, to do anything in any other mode, and any further, than precisely as God has decreed?

Answered in the affirmative; but with this qualification, that Divine Providence be not held to take away the free will of man, in the act of directing the same.

Quest. II. Whether God governs the actions of the wicked in this manner, that they no otherwise act, or can act, than as God has determined?

Ans. Yes; if the question is to be taken in this sense, that those who had come to apprehend Christ [Referring evidently to Acts ii. 23; iv. 28.—TR.], could not have done that until God permitted it.

Quest. III. Whether whatsoever things, come to pass contingently in respect of men (that is, so that they can come to pass, or not come to pass, and can happen in this manner, or in another) also come to pass thus contingently in respect of providence and of the divine decree?

Ans. I have to request, brethren, that, seeing the word contingently is not to be found in the Sacred Volume, nor in the Belgic Confession, nor yet in the Palatine Catechism, and is moreover used in a variety of senses by scholastic writers, you will submit to rest satisfied with this my confession: 'Nothing comes to pass by chance, but whatsoever things come to pass, whether of great account or small, whether good or bad, are subjected to the government and direction of Divine Providence; in such a manner, indeed, that those things which seem to us to be uncertain, and to happen by chance, nevertheless, in respect of the most wise and omnipotent providence of God, and of his eternal decree, happen certainly and immutably; although, of the evil itself which is committed, he is in no respect the author.'

Quest. IV. Whether the same place can always be assigned to free will in good actions, as can be assigned in bad?

Ans. To man, after the fall, and in a state of depravity, only a free will belongs which is prone to evil, so that he is the slave of sin and Satan.

Quest. V. Whether men before regeneration may have a good will, which is truly good, or may have true faith?

Ans. Man considered as fallen has, from himself, neither a good will which is truly good, nor faith, nor regeneration.

Quest. VI. Whether all to whom the Divine law has been made known, can act genuine repentance, and properly convert themselves to God?

Ans. By no means.

Quest. VII. Whether power to believe is always supplied, by the self-same operation, to all to whom the doctrine of the gospel is announced?

Ans. To man considered in himself belongs no power of believing; but whosoever at any time believe, these same persons receive that faith in no other way than by the special illumination of the Holy Spirit; so that faith is the gift of God, freely bestowed, apart from all consideration of merit. So far, however, as concerns other questions, for example, what kind of grace does God bestow through the preaching of the gospel, and in addition thereto; in what manner that celestial influence operates on, and concurs with, the intellect and the will; whether, moreover, to those who have no faith in Christ, common grace of that kind be given through, or independently of, the preaching of the evangelical doctrine, by which they can believe, and consequently by it be rendered inexcusable? Respecting these and other points I find nothing explicit in the Belgic Confession and Catechism, nor do I venture at present to maintain anything whatever, either on one side or on the other. On the contrary, my wish is to adhere cordially to the Confession and Catechism, and keep myself open to light.

Quest. VIII. Whether there be in all men original sin? Whence that flows into human nature — namely, whether through the soul of the parents, or through the body, or from any other source?

Ans. Original sin has place in all mortals whatsoever, with the exception of Christ. But whether it reaches us through the soul or through the body does not, in my judgment at least, sufficiently appear from the sacred writings. Yet I cannot but believe that the thing itself, by a wonderful, indeed, but still just dispensation of God, flows into us from the fall of Adam, in whom we have all sinned. All the descendants of Adam, moreover, have a certain innate corruption which renders them useless in respect to anything good, and prone to all that is evil, and the remains of which even the regenerate themselves deeply feel.

Quest. IX. Whether the words of Matthew chap. xviii. v. 17, 18, 'Tell it to the Church,' &c., do not refer to ecclesiastical discipline?

Ans. That ecclesiastical discipline has been instituted by God, I believe; nor am I prepared to deny that the passage cited bears reference to it [Vid. Uitenb. Hist. Eccles. Belgico idiom. conscript. p. 327.].

Such were the replies of Narsius, from whose mouth (if he had chanced to advance anything unguardedly) not a few endeavoured to fish out somewhat that might afford ground of attack or of cavil against his preceptor Arminius. Great, however, as was the caution he used in the foregoing answers, he was unable to satisfy these ecclesiastical Aristarchuses [Aristarchus was a grammarian of Alexandria, who subjected Homer's poetry to very hard criticism. Hence his name became a proverbial designation for any severe critic. —TR.]. So far from this, being suspected and hated amongst them on the ground of his close intimacy with Arminius, he shared the same lot with him from that tune forward, until he was driven, by the impetuosity of adversaries, to identify himself with the party of the Remonstrants, after the death of Arminius, and openly to patronise their opinions and their cause.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chapter 8 Part 1

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 8, Part 1 of 3.

This biography of James Arminius was written in Latin by Caspar Brandt, published by Gerard Brandt in 1724, and translated to English by John Guthrie in 1854.



Not to wander from the thread of our narrative, although the opinion of Gomarus above-named, and which he publicly defended, on the subject of Divine predestination, appeared — on the express admission even of his greatest supporters — to stretch somewhat beyond the limits of the Belgic Confession, and to transcend the doctrine prevailingly taught in the churches of the Reformed, still Arminius had to bear a crushing load of jealous feeling; and his adversaries left no means untried by which to burn some brand of contumely into his rising reputation. Immediately through the town of Leyden, and thence through all Holland, the rumour was set afloat that the professors of sacred literature differed seriously among themselves. The matter was everywhere in the mouths of carders, furriers, weavers, and other artisans of that class — chiefly Flemings, with whom Leyden abounded. Many, too, in their gross ignorance of theological controversies, attributed to Arminius the opinion of Gomarus, and to Gomarus, on the other hand, the opinion of Arminius [Uiteub. Hist. Eccles.].

In the beginning of next year (1605) the subject of our memoir was presented with the fasces of the Academy, and the title of Rector Magnific; but though he could discern that, with this increased dignity, he was regarded by many with an increased measure of esteem, he saw not less plainly that others abated nothing whatever of their alienation of mind, and of their clandestine endeavours against him. Many put the worst construction on his best words and deeds. If at any tune, in building up his opinion on certain controversies, he happened now and then to advance certain arguments which were also employed by Popish writers themselves, by Lutherans, and others besides the Reformed, the clamour was forthwith raised by ignorant persons that he had gone over to the enemy's camp. Besides, they set it down as a fault, that in establishing some doctrines of the Christian faith, and vindicating the truth of these against the contempt poured upon them by adversaries, he expressed the opinion that certain frivolous arguments, little apposite to the point, ought to be utterly discarded, and others of much greater strength to be substituted in their place. In this he trod in the footsteps of Calvin himself, who had expounded very differently from the ancient doctors of the Church many passages of the Old Testament which they had often and inconsiderately cited in support of the eternal divinity of Christ. Nor were parties wanting who charged it against Arminius as a crime, that he had handed to his disciples, for their private transcription, certain treatises written in his own hand, and embracing his opinion on various controversies — forgetting that the famous Junius and others had used the same liberty before him [Vid. praefat. Act. Synod. Dordr.]. Moreover, while the interests of the churches, notwithstanding that a controversy had arisen in the Academy on the subject of predestination, would in all probability have sustained no injury had the discussion been confined within the walls of the university, or to private conferences between professors and pastors, conducted with that good faith, moderation, and prudence that were meet; yet the churches came to be involved in far greater peril after many had filled the whole country and adjacent regions with false reports. Hence, for example, the public complaints and bitter declamations against Arminius with which the places of worship up and down at this time resounded, to the effect that entirely new doctrines were introduced; that the doctrine hitherto received by the Reformed was changed; that old heresies were now suspended on a new post; and that right good care ought to be taken that no injury should thence accrue to the Church.

Among the rest, Festus Hommius, a clergyman of Leyden, was very active at that time as a declaimer of the sort described. This person, by underhand circumlocution, traduced the character of Arminius; blackened without end his words and actions; and hurled against him, in his absence, many charges, which in his presence he refused to produce. For this reason, the subject of our memoir, aware of what things were done against him in secret, thought that this ecclesiastic ought to be seriously and boldly reminded of his duty; and embracing an opportunity that occurred, John Uitenbogaert and Adrian Borrius, the one a clergyman of the Hague, the other of Leyden, being present, he replied to all the matters of calumny, and all his detractions, in such a manner that Hommius was struck dumb, and even declared, at the close of the interview, his willingness to institute an inquiry after truth. But from this very time, strange to say, that clergyman not only shunned private interviews with Arminius, but, that he might not betray any want of confidence in his own cause, he subsequently told his familiar friends in private, that on returning home from this interview with Arminius, and humbly praying to God that He would vouchsafe to open his eyes and show him the truth, he was instantly surrounded with such a flood of light and joy, that he firmly resolved within himself to persevere henceforth in the received opinion. On hearing this story, Arminius broke out into these words: 'Well done, worthy investigators of the truth! As if God, forsooth, grants his Holy Spirit at one prayer in such large bestowals as to impart the ability to judge, in matters so great, without any liability of error! He gives his Holy Spirit to his elect who importune his awful majesty for it night and day.' [Vid. Arm. ad Uitenb. epist. 20. Maji 1605. script.—Epist. Eccles. p. 245.].

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chapter 7 Part 3

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 7, Part 3 of 3.

This biography of James Arminius was written in Latin by Caspar Brandt, published by Gerard Brandt in 1724, and translated to English by John Guthrie in 1854.

Meanwhile his colleagues up to this time had stirred no strife against him, on the subject of the controversies thus agitated; nor had they given as much as the slightest indication, public or private, of a hostile spirit [Ex Epist. Arm. 3 Kal. Sept. 1604.]. For although Gomarus, who was engaged at this time in the Exposition of the Ninth Chapter of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, had given a public pledge that he would discuss all the opinions concerning predestination, to be followed by a statement and proof of his own, this, so far from striking terror into Arminius, led him rather to declare, 'that if that very distinguished man should advance such arguments as were incapable of being answered, he for his part would be the first to assent to his opinion and recant his own.' Thus maintaining entire for his colleagues the same liberty of defending their own opinion in which he himself rejoiced, he cherished the hope that they would by no means overstep the bounds of Christian charity and fraternal equity.

But alas, while thus secure, and meditating no evil, he was overtaken by a very vehement storm. For Gomarus did not think fit to wait till a proper opportunity should be furnished him for disputing on the subject of predestination, but either of his own accord, or, as is more probable, at the instigation of others, so far overstepped order, and his own proper turn, as to expose to public view certain theses on that selfsame subject, which, according to the sole custom of the Academy, and in his proper rotation, Arminius had already discussed; and reports spread throughout the city that he was about to descend into the arena against Arminius, in open war. The day intimated for holding this disputation, was the 31st October. When it came round, straightway Gomarus, in a preface sufficiently acrimonious, and with an excited countenance, stated the reasons which had impelled him, to hold this disputation out of the due order; and he advanced many things which were manifestly intended as an attack upon Arminius. As to the positions he defended, they hinged on this, 'that the object of predestination is creatures rational, salvable, damnable, creatable, fallible, and recoverable. Further, that from among these, indefinitely foreknown, God, as absolute sovereign, of his own right and good pleasure, foreordained, on the one hand, certain individuals, to his own supernatural ends, namely, eternal life, and creation in an entire state of original righteousness, and holiness of life; and also on the other hand destined other individuals, eternally rejected from eternal life, to death and everlasting ignominy, and to the ways leading thereto, namely, to creation in a state of integrity, permission to fall into sin, loss of original righteousness, and abandonment in that loss; for this end, that by this way of acting, he might make known his most sovereign authority, wrath, and power on the reprobate, and the glory of his saving grace in relation to the elect.' Yea, more; on that same occasion this doctor asserted and openly maintained, 'that the gospel could not be simply called the manifestation of the divine predestination;' and added, by way of corollary, that, 'Castellio, Coornhert, and the Lutherans, falsely object to the Reformed Churches, and in particular to Calvin and Beza, who did signal service to the Church, and to the truth of predestination, in opposition to the Pelagians, that God by this doctrine is made the author of sin.'

Arminius, who was present at this disputation from beginning to end, stomached the insult, and bore in silence whatever odium was thus created against him. Nay, sick in body at the time, though not in mind, he, on the day following that on which the disputation was held (Nov. 1), opened his mind to Uitenbogaert in the following words :— 'I know, and have the testimony of conscience, that I have neither said nor done aught to afford Gomarus just cause of offence. I will readily return to favour even with him, though his conduct has been most offensive — yea, and with him of Amsterdam also, if he will henceforth but hold his peace. It is not lawful for me to hate any one, or long to retain wrath against any one, however just: that God who is described to us in the Bible instructs me to this effect by his word, Spirit, and example. Would that he might teach me to be moved by nothing, except when any blame is justly attributable to myself. It is not my part to answer for what another says or does; and I should be foolish were I to concede to any one so much of right in me, as that he should be able to disturb me as often as he had a mind. Be this my brazen wall — a conscience void of offence. 'Forward still let me go in my begun search after truth, and therein let me die, with the good God on my side, even if, on this account, I must needs incur the hatred and ill-will of the whole world! The disciple is not above his master. No new thing is this, for the truth to be rejected even by those whom such conduct least beseems, and who least of all wish to incur such a charge.' [Ex Epist. Arm. 1 Nov., 1604, script].

Moreover, that he might not appear to have abandoned the defence of the truth, at which, through him, a stab had been dealt, or to have any misgivings with respect to his own cause, he composed not long after, for the benefit of those who under him were devoutly prosecuting the study of theology, that highly-finished Examination of the Theses exposed to view by Gomarus for public discussion, which, many years after his decease, was (in 1645) given to the world, along with these same theses of Gomarus, by that very learned man, Stephen Curcellaeus. This golden little treatise is characterised by the same acuteness, strength of reasoning, and transparency of learned diction which distinguish his other writings; and he appears to have presented his eminent colleague with a copy of it. Mark, reader, this most generous preface to it, which is well entitled to a place in our narrative: 'In the highest degree useful, and above all things necessary, is that admonition of the Apostle which commands us to prove and devoutly to examine the dogmas propounded in the Church before we approve and receive them as truths. For seeing that, if we except apostles and prophets, the most eminent doctors of the Church are not placed beyond the liability of error, it does happen that they advance some things occasionally which are not taught by God in his Word, but which they either themselves have excogitated in their own human spirit, or received from others to whose authority they attribute more than is meet. Nay, this very thing may happen even at the time when they themselves think that they have thoroughly examined the dogmas they propound according to the standard of Scripture. Such being the case, do not take it ill, illustrious Gomarus, if I weigh according to Scripture, and candidly and temperately explain what I desiderate in those theses on predestination which you penned not so long ago, and publicly exhibited as matter for disputation. I testify solemnly, and in the presence of God, that I take upon me this task not from the desire of contention, but in the endeavour to investigate and find out the truth, to the end that the truth may more and more become known and everywhere obtain in the Church of Christ. That you also set before you this aim when you addressed yourself to that disputation, I am thoroughly assured. In mind and end, then, we agree, however in judgment we may chance to differ. Of this difference I take, as in duty bound, God speaking in the Scriptures to be the arbiter; and devoutly venerating his majesty and supplicating his favour, let me now address myself to my task.'

These statements being premised, and a basis laid for his treatise, he proceeds to build thereupon his considerations on the several propositions of Gomarus, and of the proofs of these noted down on the margin. Eminently masculine and judicious is his reply to the corollary of Gomarus in which he complains of some who preferred against the Reformed Church, and its principal doctors, the charge of blasphemy. Here Arminius wisely judges that it to ought be borne in mind, 'that it is one thing avowedly to make God the author of sin, and another thing to teach somewhat in ignorance from which one could legitimately infer that God, by that doctrine, was made the author of sin. The former could not be fastened upon any of the doctors of the Reformed Church; and whatever Castellio, Coornhert, and others, had urged, perhaps somewhat too offensively, against them, was grounded solely on this consideration, that in their opinion that offensive conclusion was fairly and legitimately deducible from the doctrine of those divines. But in identifying the Reformed Churches with the learned Calvin and Beza, Gomarus had done more than he was warranted to do. What some eminent doctors professed could not perpetually be laid to the charge of the churches, unless it were clearly evident that the same doctrine had been approved by the churches, and embodied in their Confessions. Moreover, setting aside all considerations of persons, or sinister intention as respects objectors, the naked arguments they advanced were entitled to examination. Celebrity of name exempted no one from the liability to err; and the first teachers of the Reformed may be held entitled to the highest esteem and gratitude of the Church, although they may not perhaps have seen sufficiently through all those things by which it had been deformed. It was false to rank with Pelagians those who impugned the opinion which Gomarus maintained on the subject of predestination, it being as clear as noon-day, from the ancient ecclesiastical synods, that the Pelagian doctrines could be rejected even by those who nevertheless by no means assented to the opinion contained in the above theses of Gomarus. Augustine himself could solidly confute the errors of the Pelagians, and at the same time omit that doctrine which he taught on the subject of divine predestination. Nay, even that opinion which Gomarus and several others delivered on that subject differed very materially from the opinion of Augustine, and supposed many things which Augustine would by no means have granted. It is incumbent on us to avoid the breakers not of Pelegianism only, but also of Manichaeism, and of errors still more infamous. For his part, after attentively weighing the doctrine, not so much of the entire Reformed Church as of Gomarus and certain others, he felt thoroughly persuaded that it followed from it that God was the author of sin; at the same time he also testified and declared that he heartily detested all the tenets of the Pelagian doctrine as these had been condemned in the synods of Mileve, Orange, and Jerusalem; and if any one could prove that aught akin to these was deducible from the sentiments he had above set forth, he would that very instant change his opinion.'

Thus writes Arminius; nor would we judge it dutiful to forbear mentioning in this connexion, that Gomarus, at a subsequent period, pressed by certain arguments advanced by Arminius in the treatise just referred to, introduced several changes for the better into his later theses on the subject of the eternal decree and predestination of God. For besides that he abandoned that absurd opinion, 'that the decrees of God are nought other than God himself,' and maintained the direct contrary with all his might, he was also glad to admit that there is in God what the schoolmen call a conditionate knowledge, by the aid of which he sought to rid his opinion of that enormous monstrosity which made God the author of the sin of the first man, and consequently of all the rest which proceed from it [Ex praefat. S. Curcellaei in Examen Gomari Thes.].

Friday, December 26, 2008

Chapter 7 Part 2

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 7, Part 2 of 3.

This biography of James Arminius was written in Latin by Caspar Brandt, published by Gerard Brandt in 1724, and translated to English by John Guthrie in 1854.

Perceiving, however, but too plainly, while yet in the very threshold of the office on which he had entered, that the young intellects under his care were entangling themselves in the intricacies of many profitless questions, and, to the neglect of the standard of celestial truth, prosecuting a variety of thorny theorems and problems, he took counsel with his colleagues, and gave it as his opinion that this growing evil should be resisted, and the youth recalled to the earlier and more masculine method of study. With this view, he reckoned nothing more important than to foreclose, as far as he could, crabbed questions, and the cumbrous mass of scholastic assertions, and to inculcate on his disciples that divine wisdom which was drawn from the superlatively pure fountains of the Sacred Word, and was provided for the express purpose of guiding us to a life of virtue and happiness. From his first introduction into the Academy it was his endeavour to aim at this mark, and give a corresponding direction to his studies both public and private. But truly this laudable attempt was in no small degree thwarted, partly by the jealousy which some had conceived against him, and partly also by a certain inveterate prejudice as to his heterodoxy, with which many ministers of religion had long been imbued, and under the impulse of which they stirred up his colleagues against him.

The first germs, indeed, of this budding jealousy betrayed themselves in the following year (1604); For when Arminius, who had undertaken the task of interpreting the Old Testament in particular, proceeded also now and then to give a public exposition of certain portions of the New Testament, Gomarus took this amiss, and began to allege that the right of expounding the New Testament belonged solely to him, as Primarius Professor of Sacred Theology — for this title had been conceded to him by the Senatus Academicus, a short time prior to the arrival of Arminius. Nay, more; happening to meet Arminius, he felt unable to contain himself, and in a burst of passion broke out in these words — 'You have invaded my professorship.' Arminius replied that he did not mean to detract anything whatever from the primacy of his colleague, and from the academic titles and privileges conferred upon him; and that he had not done him the slightest injury, having obtained license from the honourable curators to select themes of prelection at any time, not only from the Old Testament, but also from the New, provided he did not encroach on the particular subject in which Gomarus might be engaged.

But this dispute, which arose out of a matter of no moment, and was easily allayed, was from henceforth succeeded by others which opened the way to dissensions of greater magnitude, and of more disastrous issue to the Reformed Church. For Arminius, under the conviction that it was his duty to do nothing against the dictate of an undefiled conscience, and the proper liberty of teaching, in matters of religion, conceded to himself as well as to other doctors of divinity, judged it to be in no respect unbecoming or unlawful for him — especially as he had not concealed from the honourable curators of the Academy that on the subject of divine predestination he differed from the doctors of the Genevan school — to give forth, in a temperate manner, a public declaration of his opinion on that point. Accordingly, after the professors of theology had entered into a mutual arrangement as to the order and succession in which the disputations were to be held, and the lot had fallen to Arminius to dispute on the subject of predestination, he drew up, on the 7th February, certain theses on that point, and exposed them for public discussion. Their purport was this: 'that divine predestination is the decree of God's good pleasure in Christ, by which, with himself, from eternity, he resolved to justify and adopt believers, on whom he decreed to bestow faith, and to give eternal life to them, to the praise of his glorious grace; that reprobation, on the other hand, is the decree of wrath, or the severe will of God, by which, from eternity, he resolved to condemn to eternal death, unbelievers who, by their own fault, and by the just judgment of God, will not believe, as persons who are not in a state of union with Christ—and this for the declaration of his wrath and power.' [Vid. Uitenb. Hist. Eccl.]. But although this position of his did not perfectly correspond to those which Calvin and Beza had given forth on this subject, still he by no means looked upon it as a novelty, but as entirely coinciding with the opinion which George Sohnius, and other divines before him of the Reformed religion, had taught both by tongue and pen. Besides, that he might not, in defending these positions, incur the just offence of any one, he was particularly on his guard, in the course of this disputation, against saying anything in disparagement of the reputation of Calvin and Beza, sparing' their names, and manifesting severity towards no one of a different opinion. Not long after, (on the 29th May, and sometime in July,) with the same freedom of discussion, and in the same temperate tone, he further subjected to public examination, his theses On the Church, and On the Sin of our First Parents; and in the course of this last disputation, Gomarus and Trelcatius being present, he took occasion, by a series of very solid arguments, to confute the necessity, and establish the contingency of that sin. [Vid. Epist Eccles. p. 134.]. But although he was convinced that the opinion of his adversaries on this point involved numerous absurdities, and that everything that was wont to be adduced, in palliation of this dogma, of the absolute necessity of things, deserved to be discarded, he nevertheless, in this as well as in other controversies, conducted his own cause with much moderation, and, directing his address to his hearers, begged this only at their hands, that they would diligently sift whatever arguments he advanced; adding — what on all occasions, public and private, he was wont to declare — that he was ready to yield to those who taught what might be more in accordance with truth. Not a few, however, murmured against the disputation thus held, and took it amiss that among other things he had maintained, 'that there is no absolute necessity in things, besides God; yea, that not even does fire burn necessarily; but that every necessity which exists in things, or events, is nothing else than the relation of cause to effect.' [Ex Epist. Arm. 17 Aug. 1604, script. Vid. Epist. Eccles. p. 138.].

On the same point, too, shortly after, a discussion was started and kept up at considerable length with him, by the very learned Helmichius, who happened at that time to have taken a journey to Leyden [Videsis de hac materia Armin. disserentem in Epist. ad Uitenb. 17 Aug. et 3 Kal. Sept. script. 1604.]. Helmichius asserted, that many things were, in different respects, both contingent and necessary. This Arminius denied of things absolutely necessary. Helmichius appealed to passages plainly testifying that the word of God stands; that the word of God cannot be broken; that Gods counsel is fulfilled, &c.; and thence inferred that what God had decreed must come to pass necessarily. Arminius denied this consequence, on the ground that God's decree might rightly and correctly be said to stand, if that which he had decreed came to pass, although it should not come to pass necessarily. Helmichius acknowledged that the opinion which Arminius defended, did not subvert the foundations of the faith, neither could it be called heretical. Arminius on the other hand maintained, that so far was this opinion from deserving to be branded with so black a name, that nothing, he felt persuaded, would tend more to illustrate the glory of God, than if all Christians whatsoever were to maintain that there is nothing necessary besides God; and that he not only foreknows things contingent, but also that his decrees are accomplished through contingent events and free causes. At length, however, after much had passed on both sides, and Arminius had offered to hold a conference with him respecting all the articles of the Christian religion, and the entire system of theological doctrine, Helmichius bade him a friendly farewell.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chapter 7 Part 1

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 7, Part 1 of 3.

This biography of James Arminius was written in Latin by Caspar Brandt, published by Gerard Brandt in 1724, and translated to English by John Guthrie in 1854.



Thus honourably sent away, Arminius transferred his residence to Leyden, and concentrated all his care on the one aim, how to sustain with sufficient dignity the office he had obtained. As he reflected in those days, upon the lustre of that very important office, his heart sometimes failed him. In course of time, however, reassured by the kindly judgments of many respecting him, and by the favour of the entire Academy, he (in a letter dated 22nd Sept. 1603) gave expression in these words to the confidence of his spirit: 'I will therefore, with the help of the good God, address myself to this province, and look for success by his abundant blessing. He knows from what motive I have undertaken this office, what is my aim, what object I have in view in discharging the duties of it. He discerns and approves, I know. It is not the empty honour of this world — mere smoke and bubble — nor the desire of amassing wealth, (which indeed were in vain, let me strive to the utmost,) that has impelled me hither; but my one wish is to do public service in the gospel of Christ, and to exhibit that gospel as powerfully and plainly as possible before those who are destined, in their turn, to propagate it to others.' [Ex Epist. Arm. 22 Sept. 1603. script.].

In this spirit he mounted the academic chair, and commenced his prelections with three elegant and polished orations, which he delivered in succession. The first treated Of the object of Sacred Theology; the second, Of the Author and End of Theology; the third of its Certitude. By this method he strove to instil into the minds of the students a love for that divine and most dignified of all the sciences; and at his very entrance into his office he judged with Socrates, the wisest of the Gentiles, that the principal part of his responsibility stood fulfilled could he only succeed in inflaming his disciples with an ardent desire of learning. The foundation being thus laid, he proceeded to build thereupon his finished prelections on the prophetic book of Jonah, which, many years before, he had expounded from the pulpit in his vernacular tongue. And indeed these lectures, while scarcely yet begun, conciliated towards him the favourable regards of auditors of all ranks, to such a degree that they regarded with profound respect this new Atlas of the Academy; and judged that in this renowned doctor and successor, most of all, they had got the deceased Junius restored to them again. The most noble curators of the Academy, too, congratulating themselves and their school on the accession of such a man, rendered the return of a grateful mind to those by whose interest and assiduity they had procured his release from the people of Amsterdam. As the illustrious Nicolas Cromhout, senator of the Provincial Court, had been preeminently active in this business, the noble John Dousa thought him entitled to have the following tribute of thanks sent to him in name of the entire Academy:—

'Cromhout! in Holland's Senate no mean name;
Cromhout, rare laurel in thy country's fame;
Practised in courts, accomplished and refined.
No sordid motive taints thy lofty mind.
Much owes our era to thy virtues rare,
(Could heaven a boon bestow more rich and fair?)
Yet more we owe; far through thy zeal it came
That Amsterdam gave up a tender claim,
And Leyden's learned halls could boast Arminius' name.'

[The following are the lines, the sense of which we have thus endeavoured to present to the English reader:—

'Kromhouti, o Batavi pars haud postrema Senatus,
Cromhouti, o Patriae gloria rara tuse:
Quod Fori, et assiduo Rerum limatus in usu,
Sordida nou ulla peetora labe geras;
Multum equidem (quid enim majus dare Numina possint?)
Virtuti debent saecula nostra tuae:
Plus tamen, Arminium quod te duce et auspice primum
Hollands urbs dederit Amsterodama Scholae.']

To these lines we have pleasure in adding part of a most elegant poem published on the same occasion, and by the same poet, in praise of the very eloquent Uitenbogaert:—

'By every true and pious breast,
By all who love religion's ways,
This truly ought to be confessed —
That Uitenbogaert claims our praise.
To him our lasting thanks are due:
Nor least that Leyden's learned fame
Gained through his zeal a lustre new —
It gained Armmius' rising name.'

[The following are the original lines;—

'Et sane fateamur hoc uecesse est
Omnes queis pietas, amorque veri
Aut res Religionis ulla cordi est,
Istoc nomine nos Uitenbogardo
Esse ac perpetuum fore obligatos:
Haud paulo tamen obligatiores
Recens ob meritum, quod Aurasinae
Doctorem Arminium Scholae dedisti.']

Nor ought it by any means to be passed by in silence, that this same clergyman, in consideration of his strenuous efforts to further the call of Arminius, was honoured with a silver cup; this memorial of gratitude being presented to him, in name of the Senatus Academicus, by those influential men, Cornelius Neostadius, and Nicolas Zeistius [Ex Diario MS. Uitenb.].

Meanwhile the subject of our memoir had scarcely get foot in the Academy when he was requested by two students of theology, namely Corranus and Gilbert Jacchaeus, that he would consent to honour with his presence their theses, or positions, which they had drawn up to be subjected to public examination — those of Corranus being on Justification, those of Jacchaeus on Original Sin [Ex tractatu quodam Bertii, Belg. idiom, script.]. But although these positions contained some things not exactly to his mind, or in harmony with the opinion he had formed on these questions, he judged it nevertheless to be quite in keeping with his office to undertake the part proposed to him; for he was not ignorant of the fact, that some students of divinity under the presidency of Gomarus himself, and of other doctors, had more than once, in their own cause, defended certain dogmas to which these same doctors did not on all points accord their assent. For this reason the subject of our memoir also (on the 28th October) conformed to this custom, by no means unusual in universities; but on this occasion these very learned youths defended so strenuously each his own cause, that there was scarcely any need for the help or interference of the president.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chapter 6 Part 3

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 6, Part 3 of 3.

This biography of James Arminius was written in Latin by Caspar Brandt, published by Gerard Brandt in 1724, and translated to English by John Guthrie in 1854.

But lest they should come to too close quarters, Gomarus immediately proceeded to attack the opinion of Arminius on the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Romans, declaring and maintaining that it ran counter to the Palatine Catechism, and adducing certain passages from that document — yea, and pressing into his service even its marginal notes. Arminius, on the other hand, refuted the arguments of his opponent, and boldly vindicated, against his exceptions, his own interpretation; maintaining, moreover, that that expression of the Catechism which was urged against him, viz., 'unless we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit [Vid. Quaest Catecli. Palat.],' ought to be explained of regeneration in its initial stage. He further testified 'that he utterly rejected and detested the tenets on this point propounded by the Pelagians, and approved of those which Augustine and other divines of the Primitive Church had maintained in opposition to Pelagius and his followers; that he entirely assented to the Catechism; that he by no means explained that passage from Paul, of the man considered as utterly irregenerate; that his own opinion on this point was at the furthest possible remove from that of Prosper Dysidaeus (Faustus Socinus); and that he had never furnished just cause for such great commotions as had formerly been excited in relation to this subject.'

On hearing this defence, and taking into account that Arminius disclaimed many of the tenets imputed to him, and thought far otherwise on that controversy than from the report of others he had been given to understand, Gomarus ingenuously declared 'that he had hitherto supposed that Arminius maintained the opinion of Prosper Dysidaeus, but he now perceived that on that question he was otherwise minded; and therefore, as he (Gomarus) had not apprehended with sufficient clearness the full mind of Arminius on the matter, he begged that he would not think it too much to divulge his own opinions on the subject a little more fully and accurately.' At this request, however, that honourable man, and curator of the university, Neostadius, expressed his astonishment; insisting that those at whose request the distinguished Gomarus had undertaken his present task ought to have instructed him better respecting the opinion of Arminius; and that it belonged to him and to them, and not to Arminius, who sustained the character of the party accused, to produce those things which went to inculpate him. Arminius took the same ground, and added that 'he would not say a word till Gomarus himself, and the other deputies of the churches, should have cleared him of the calumnies with which he had been aspersed.' The honourable curators having lent their sanction to this declaration, Gomarus at length intimated 'that, since Arminius repudiated Pelagianism, he was satisfied; and that his interpretation (of Romans vii.), such as it was, could be tolerated.' The deputies of the churches made a declaration to the same effect; immediately after which, Arminius, producing a copy of the New Testament, which he always bore about with him, forthwith read the whole of that seventh chapter of Romans, from the beginning to the end, and expounded it so felicitously, that no one, not even Gomarus himself, hazarded a word in opposition — with the exception of Arnold Cornelis, who started one objection, on the solution of which he became instantly mute. On hearing this, Neostadius, turning to the deputies of the churches, exclaimed, 'Is this, then, that controversy, so often agitated, which has for many years past stirred such mighty contention and clamour? And so we have in a brief space of time allayed a strife to terminate which even many years have not sufficed the people of Amsterdam!' [Ex tractatu quodam Bertii, Belgice conscript.].

That primary question being accordingly dismissed, they proceeded to treat, though only in a cursory way, of the Church of Rome; also of the determination of the human will by the Divine decree; and other kindred articles respecting which certain persons had insinuated that the sentiments of Arminius differed in some degree from those of the Reformed. But to the several charges Arminius learnedly and solidly replied; and so happily explained and defended his own opinion on these and other points, that the distinguished Gomarus and the other deputies of the churches did not deem it worth their while to contend further about them [Diario MS. Uitenb.]. And more, to rid their minds utterly of all their doubts, he, in the same confidence of spirit with which he had entered on this conference, drew from his pocket, and presented to the inspection of each, his own 'Dissertation on the, proper sense of the Seventh Chapter of the Romans,' which some time previously he had most learnedly written out in an expanded form. As no one, however, lifted this manuscript from the table, or said anything whatever in reply to his interrogation, 'If the brethren had aught further to require of him?' the conference terminated, with so happy an issue, that all, without exception, gave him the right hand of fraternal love; and conducted him, in a body, to an entertainment which, by order of the illustrious curators of the Academy, had been provided for them in the Castile Inn (as it was called), at the Hague. On this occasion, too, these curators testified 'that the suspicions stirred against Arminius had not been substantiated, nor was there just cause why any one should judge unfavourably respecting him; for in the exercise of the liberty granted him of prophesying (of discussing sacred things) in the church, he had taught nothing that was inimical to the Christian religion.' [Ex Bertii Orat. Funeb.].

The obstacles that obstructed his path to the professorship having been thus happily removed, some, whose counsel and authority he highly valued, urged him to consent to his being invested with the title of Doctor, and with this view to submit to a fresh examination. He judged it dutiful to defer to their wish; and accordingly repaired to Leyden on the 19th of June, and on the same day underwent a private examination. The success and issue of this examination, which was conducted by the distinguished Gomarus, I prefer to express in the words of Arminius himself, as furnishing a thoroughly candid and remarkable testimony in favour of his examinator. He says, 'I was examined on Tuesday by Gomarus, in the presence of the illustrious Grotius and Merula. He performed his part actively and honourably. I answered his questions as well as I could at the time. He, and the other two who were present, expressed themselves satisfied. The examination turned on questions relating to the substance of theology; and he conducted himself quite as he ought, and in the manner I could have wished.' [Ex Arm. Epist. ined. ad J. Uiteub. 21 Juuii script.].

Three weeks after, as a further step to his obtaining the title of doctor, he held a public disputation on the 10th day of July, forenoon and afternoon; and defended ably and spiritedly the theses assigned him Concerning the Nature of God — the part of opponents having been undertaken by Peter Bertius, Festus Hommius, Crucius, and Nicolas Grevinchovius. The disputation passed off with universal applause. Our Arminius was the first, as Bertius testifies, who, in the Leyden Academy, bore away the title and degree of doctor. The celebrated Gomarus conferred the honour upon him, with the usual formalities, on the 11th July. At the sametime also, and on the occasion of this academic festival, he delivered that highly polished oration Concerning the Priestly Office of Christ, which is still extant among his posthumous works. Moreover, that a public memorial might remain of the honour thus conferred upon him, the Senatus Academicus further decreed that the following testimonial should be presented to him at the time:—

'The Rector and Professors of the Leyden Academy in Holland, to the reader, greeting:'

'Praiseworthy in every respect, and founded on reasons the strongest and most commendable, is the custom introduced by emperors, kings, and commonwealths, that the man who has done distinguished service in any science or art should be presented with the honourable testimonial of some university, and become known to all by the proclamation of his learning and virtue. If this be of the highest utility in all the sciences and arts, the more needful is it in sacred theology, by how much the doctrine of piety, from the majesty of divine things, in the highest degree transcends all other arts and sciences. A twofold advantage, in particular, seems to result from such testimonials — to these who are furnished with them on the one hand, to the public on the other; for in the first place, true and genuine doctors of the Church come thereby to be better known; and in the next place, those engaged in this science—the noblest and most glorious of all — are animated and stimulated to prosecute with more alacrity such lofty studies. They too who are invested with a dignity so great are first reminded of their own duty, and of the faith they have pledged to Christ and his Church; and then they also feel animated themselves to hold on successfully in the career they have begun. Wherefore, as that most reverend and illustrious man, the learned James Arminius, has, during these many years past, in which he has applied his mind to the study of sacred literature, abundantly proved to the satisfaction of all of us, not only in a private examination, but also in theses On the Nature of God which he publicly and most learnedly maintained against the arguments and objections of all, his remarkable and extraordinary knowledge and skill, at once of sacred letters and of orthodox theology, we have judged him in the highest degree worthy to be honoured with our public testimonial, and to be by us commended to all good men. Accordingly, by the authority granted us by that most excellent prince and lord, of glorious memory, William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, and Governor of Holland, Zealand, &c., and also by the illustrious States of Holland and Zealand, we have designated and declared, and do designate and declare, the forenamed learned James Arminius (and happy and auspicious may this be to the Republic and to the Christian Church!) to be Doctor of Sacred Theology; and we have given, and do give unto him, authority to interpret publicly and privately the sacred Scriptures, to teach the mysteries of religion, and to dispute, write, and preside at discussions on points of the Christian Faith, as well as to solve theological questions; also to perform all public and formal acts pertaining to the true office of a Doctor in theology; in fine, to enjoy all the privileges and immunities as well as prerogatives which, whether by right or by custom, are due to this order and dignity of the theological doctorate. In fullest faith of all which, we have ordered to be given to him this public testimonial, authenticated by having affixed to it the greater seal of this Academy, and subscribed by the hand of the secretary. — Given at Leyden, in Holland, in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and three, on the tenth day of July, new style.'

'B. Vulcanius.' [Ex ipso autograph, sigillo Academiae subsignato.].

Having in this manner obtained the title of doctor, the subject of our memoir returned to Amsterdam; and after transacting in that city some matters of business which considerations of honour made it requisite to dispatch, at the close of the summer holidays he bade a final farewell to that celebrated church, of which he had officiated as pastor for a period of fifteen years. Nay, more; that he might address himself with the more spirit to the province assigned him, and sustain no injury henceforth from the sinister reports which had previously been circulated to his prejudice, it seemed good to the Amsterdam Presbytery, on the eve of his departure, to furnish him with an honourable testimonial, in which the rulers of that church testified:— 'That the consummate integrity of Arminius, their dearest co-presbyter, both for blamelessness of life and soundness of doctrine as well as of manners, had, in the course of long acquaintance been so thoroughly testified, that they would value nothing more highly than the continued privilege of his advice, services, and familiar friendship. But, seeing it was now otherwise arranged, they gave thanks to Almighty God that they had reaped fruit, not to he repented of, from the unwearied zeal and exertions of this their fellow-labourer. They also acknowledged, freely and cordially, that they were not a little indebted to this their beloved brother, for the alacrity with which he had borne his full share along with them in all that pertained to the efficient discharge of the sacred function; and for this reason they commended him, from the heart, to all pious men, and to all the most learned.'

This very handsome testimony was followed up by another from the Amsterdam Classis, signed in name of the entire judicatory, by the Revds. John Ursinus, Halsberg, and Hallius, in which they openly declare: 'That Doctor Arminius, who had now for fifteen years been a member of their assembly, had always purely, and with much success, taught wholesome doctrine; had administered the sacraments, according to the institution of our Lord; had propagated with great zeal the true and Christian religion; and had, by his diligence and regular attendance, proved an ornament to their assembly; further, that by his prudence and address he had settled with others affairs of great difficulty and importance; that he always promptly undertook whatever burdens were imposed upon him with a view to promote the edification of the church; that he had, up to that very day, adorned his sacred calling by the respectability and probity of his life; arid, in a word, that both in the sacred office, and in the common intercourse of life, he had conducted himself towards all in such a manner as became the genuine servant of Christ.' [Integra haec testimonia vide sis in Bert. Orat. Funeb.].