The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 10, Part 2 of 3 (p. 220-231).
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.
Before taking leave of this ecclesiastical Convention, I must by no means here omit to state that a certain sinister rumour concerning Arminius, occasioned by the holding of this conference, spread out far and wide, to the effect that he had been entreated, with the utmost importunity, by the brethren then assembled, that he would not hesitate to unfold freely those things which he had meditated in the matter of the Christian faith, with the promise that they would do their endeavour to get him fully satisfied; but that this he had in a tone of sufficient boldness refused [Vid. praefat. Act. Synod. Dord—Baudart. monum. Hist]. As this story stirred against him a very bad feeling in the minds of many, who thought that he ought to have paid greater honour to that Conference, convened as it was from all the provinces at once, we think it well to trace from a point a little further back the character of this whole affair, and the transaction as it really happened, according to the account given by Arminius himself.
Sometime, then, before the subject of our memoir, agreeably to the summons of the States-General to attend the Conference, had presented himself at the Hague, he happened accidentally to lay his hand on five articles, viz: concerning Predestination, the Fall of Adam, Free Will, Original Sin, and the Eternal Salvation of Infants. These had been sent into other provinces also, but especially into Zealand and the district of Utrecht: yea and had been discussed at some ecclesiastical meetings, in terms which implied that, on those heads of doctrine, they contained the sentiments of Arminius himself. But scarcely had he perused them, when he immediately felt assured he had detected their author, — one, namely of the number of those whom the rulers had summoned to that same Conference with himself. Deeming it proper to deal with him on the subject at that very time, he freely signified to him on what grounds he suspected that those articles had been drawn up by him. This imputation the individual referred to did not deny, but declared that they were by no means sent as importing that they contained the opinions of Arminius himself, but simply as articles which furnished matter for disputation among the students at Leyden. Arminius rejoined that by this circumstance, notwithstanding, serious injury was done to him and to his reputation; nor could it otherwise than happen that articles of this kind, everywhere in circulation, would be attributed not so much to the students, as to himself; when the truth was, that they had neither emanated from him, nor did they accord with his sentiments on the points concerned, nor with the Sacred Scriptures.
After these things had passed between them (two only of the other brethren being present), Arminius further judged it proper, towards the close of this convention at the Hague, when all were present, to introduce the matter, especially as some were present at this convention who had not only read those articles, but who were under the impression that they were the production of Arminius himself. Accordingly, when the proceedings of this assembly had been already signed, — nay, after certain had been deputed to report their transactions to their Mightinesses the States, — he begged the brethren to do him the favour to remain for a little on his account, as there was a matter on which he wished to have some conversation with them. He straightway produced the above-named articles, and having read them, he proceeded in strong terms to complain of the injury done to him by their circulation — adding, that he protested solemnly, and as in the presence of the Supreme Majesty, that these articles were by no means his, nor did they express his opinions. This he repeated twice, and moreover entreated his brethren that they would not attach such immediate faith to rumours set afloat respecting him, and be so ready to admit things which were falsely laid to his charge. To this, a member of the conference on his own account replied, 'that for that end he would do well to signify to his brethren what in these articles he approved, and what he rejected, that thus they might to some extent be made aware of his opinions;' and some other one followed in the same strain. Arminius, however, replied that this did not appear to him to be advisable, nor was it obligatory upon him, seeing that this conference had been appointed for no such end; not to mention that time sufficient had been expended on this assembly, and that the States themselves were expecting their reply. On saying this, the conference was straightway brought to a close, no one seeking to follow up the conversation any further, nor all assembled simultaneously agreeing in that request, or using any persuasion with him, to understake such a task. Nay more, after the conference was over, some of the brethren declared in the presence of Arminius himself, that they had been charged by their churches not to enter on any discussion concerning doctrinal controversies, and should anything of the sort happen, to quit the conference as soon as possible [Ex Arm. Delcar. coram Ord.]
But further, after the holding of this convention, calumny heaped fresh charges on Arminius and on those who, sharing in his opinion, had freely spoken their minds as to the proper way in which the Synod should be held. They were represented as having sought, by these dissentient counsels, to interpose fresh delay in the way of the Synod's being held, and to pave the course directly for bringing about a revolution in doctrinal sentiment. Some made them out to be guilty of having got inserted in the public decree, the condition concerning the revisal of the Confession and Catechism. More roughly handled than all, were Arminius and Uitenbogaert, whose names, and whose very free expression of sentiment, according to the license granted to them by the States, were most acrimoniously animadverted on by the Synod of North Holland, which met shortly after at Amsterdam [Trigland. Hist Eccles.—Uitenb. Hist.] Nay, as if all this were not enough, Sybrandus, Lubberti, a professor in the Franeker University, despatched letters to Scotland, Germany, and France, asking advice of these foreigners, which contained a coloured and garbled account of what had been transacted at the previous Convention; — thereby exerting himself to preoccupy their minds with a violent prejudice against Arminius and Uitenbogaert [Vid literas S. Lubberti huic fini scriptas inter Epist. Eccles. p. 187.]. To this document the accused party felt constrained, in course of time, to oppose another, to vindicate among these foreigners the innoence of their good name against the detractions of adversaries [Vid. Epist. Arm. et Uitenb. Sybrandianae oppos. inter Ep. Eccles. p. 190.].
The Synod of South Holland, too, held at Delft in September following, embarked in the same business with sufficient animosity. Some of its proceedings, as far as the scope of the present narrative may require, I will here briefly and summarily recount. At this Synod, then, Uitenbogaert was called upon to explain to its assembled members the reasons why, in giving advice as to the mode of holding the National Synod, he, along with Arminius, had thought and counselled differently from the other pastors; in order that the Synod, after giving them due consideration, might be able to judge whether thereby, also, any prejudice had been done to the church. But Uitenbogaert immediately replied, 'that he, for his part, was ready to communicate to the Synod the opinions which had been delivered to the States; but to render reasons for them in this place, when those who had given expression to the same opinions with him were neither present, nor consulted, appeared to him altogether unadvisable. Moreover, he and his association in that Convention, were by no means bound by the mandate of any particular Synod, but had been summoned by the States of Holland themselves, to bring out their opinions freely and according to the dictate of conscience: to the States, therefore, with the best right, must the reasons of these opinions be rendered. It was to no purpose, accordingly, and quite out of place, for this assembly to take upon itself to judge in respect to that matter; rather ought the brethren to take care, and strive by all means, to prevent such very hasty judgments, — which also tended to the most serious prejudice of the Supreme Authority, — from compromising the interests of the churches; and to take care that such proceedings to not interpose fresh obstacles to obtaining the Synod, so long desired.' [Vid. praefat. Act. Synod. Dord.—Uitenb. Hist.]. Various discussions ensued concerning this affair; as also, on the same occasion, concerning the right of the magistrate in things pertaining to religion. At last the Synod thought that it would be sufficient in the circumstances, if the opinions presented to the States were merely read to it, and full judgment in regard to them deferred until the arguments for the dissentients' opinions, yet to be delivered to the States, should be more clearly made known to them.
The affair being thus disposed of, the assembly forthwith decided, in terms of the decree of the last Synod held at Gorcum, to press the inquiry, if some animadversions on the Confession and Catechism had not been presented to the classes. It was replied by some of the classical deputies, that most of the ministers in their respective classes had declared that they had no remarks to make in opposition to these writings; and that in their judgment they were sound throughout, and in harmony with the Sacred Volume — nay, even, 'that they were prepared to live and die with the Confession and Catechism.' On the other hand, Uitenbogaert and others, in name of their respective classes, intimated that there were amongst them those who were as yet seriously engaged in the examination demanded, and that they would deliver their animadversions at the proper time [Vid. Press declar. Contrarem. oppos. p. 32]. Immediately snatching occasion from this to get proceedings originated against Uitenbogaert, the president of the Synod asked him whether he, too, cherished any scruples against these books? on which, lest he should appear to call in question any main points of the Christian doctrine, yea, and of the Reformed Confession [This noble-minded man, as the elder Brandt informs us, gave the president distinctly to understand, that he answered his question ex gratia, and not at all as being under obligation to do so; and that he declared the question to be 'unseasonable, unprofitable, and a kind of inquisition.' See Ger. Brandt's Hist. Reform. in Low Countries, Vol ii. p. 43—TR], Uitenbogaert spontaneously and candidly declared 'that he approved of the Confession and Catechism as far as concerned the substance and basis of doctrine; he held that the fundamentals of salvation were sufficiently contained in them; and these formularies, as far as they agreed with the Harmony [See Confessionum Fidei Harmonia Orthod. et Ref. Eccl. &c. Genevae 1581.—TR.] of the other Protestant Churches, had his entire assent.' [Vid. Uitenb. Hist. Eccles.—Press. declare. Remonst. p. 32. Respons. ad Epist. Wallach. p. 17.].
Many joined in this sentiment, and expressed their concurrence in his statements, being desirous of nothing more than that ecclesiastical affairs should be conducted calmly and peaceably until the National Synod. To the suspicious minds of some, however, this declaration was by no means satisfactory; but they further asked 'if whatsoever things were contained in the Confession and Catechism were, as respects substance, words, phrases, and whatever else of that description, believed to be conformable to the Divine mind or not?' To this Uitenbogaert and the others replied 'that a declaration of that sort could not be made in a moment, and that to settle this matter aright a reasonable space of time was requisite;' on which the Synod at length decided by a plurality of votes to charge all the ministers, and even the professors of theology, that, laying aside all subterfuges, tergiversations, and delays, 'they would attentively examine every thing contained in the above-named writings, both as regards substance, and as regards words and phrases; and each deliver to his own classis, as speedily as possible, whatever remarks he might have to offer in opposition to the received doctrine.' [Act. Synod. Delf. Art. 3.].
Nor was this all. Proceeding yet further, the Synod, under the pretext that dissensions were growing daily and demanded an immediate remedy, at the same time decreed 'That their High Mightinesses the States of Holland and West Friesland, be requested to grant it permission to convoke from the two Synods of South and North Holland one Provincial Synod, by which the professors of theology who were to be cited, and such of the ministers of religion as it may seem necessary to the Church to summon, should, on the first opportunity, be brought together to a friendly conference on all those heads of doctrine in regard to which they cherished doubt; that in this way a judgment might be formed by the churches as to the nature and magnitude of the controversies, and as suitable a remedy as possible devised for allaying dissensions and preserving integrity of doctrine.' [Act. Synod. Delf. Art. 4.]. But this decision and decree, as it mightily pleased many, so it very highly offended others, and exposed its framers and authors to the suspicion of stepping, under the guise of holding this assembly and conference, into the place of a National Synod, and of exerting themselves to forestall its judgment and sentence. Nay, some thought that by this same decree the act of the States in regard to the lawful revision of the Confession and Catechism, and their right and authority to summon a National Synod in their own name, were very seriously infringed; and that this was done with the sole intent that those whom this ecclesiastical tribunal, after hearing their reasons, might have accused of heterodoxy, should henceforth be held disqualified to enjoy the right of voting in the National Synod. This undoubtedly entered into the grounds on which the deputies of both Synods, who petitioned the States for leave to carry their decisions into effect, were balked of their wish. For, on the 14th September, they received the reply 'that, considering the many difficulties with which this matter was beset, and the very grave political business which distracted the States at the time, it was impossible for them, in present circumstances, to comply with the request of the churches; but at their own tune, and when opportunity offered, they would take the matter into consideration: they further instructed the deputies of the churches to exert themselves meanwhile to the utmost for the promotion of ecclesiastical tranquillity; and they would besides, see to it that ministers of the opposite sentiment should be admonished of the same duty.' [Trigland. Hist. Eccles. p. 413.].
In the meantime, Arminius and Uitenbogaert were warned on all sides of the grievous extent to which, both in Holland and in the adjacent regions, they were everywhere maligned, — partly by clandestine whispers, partly by reports openly circulated among the people, — on account of the opinions they had expressed as to how the Synod should be held. They judged it by no means their duty to sit silent under all this; on the contrary, as a satisfaction due to their own character, they (on the 6th September) delivered to the Grand Pensionary of Holland, for presentation to the States, their reasons for their opinion, and for the advice they gave, drawn up in writing, and signed also by the two delegates from Utrecht. They moreover declared, that of nothing were they more desirous than that the rest of the brethren also should produce their reasons for the different opinions they advanced; and that thus, in regard to this matter, and the holding of the Synod, their High Mightinesses could give such a decision as would be most conducive to the good of the Church [Videsis integrum hoc Scriptum in Hist. Uitenbog.]. To the attainment of this wish, however, an obstacle was presented by the public deliberations respecting the armistice, the discussion of which so engaged the States as to leave them scarcely any leisure for these ecclesiastical affairs [The deliberations here referred to were of the very gravest character, and proved the source of that alienation between the ambitious Prince Maurice and the incorruptible Oldenbarneveldt, which caused the latter ere long to lose his head. Maurice was opposed to the truce. Oldenharneveldt, knowing his ulterior designs against the new-born liberties of Holland, promoted it in the face of storms that thickened around him from every side. His resolute patriotism at length triumphed in the famous truce of twelve years concluded with Spain in 1609, on terms deeply humiliating to the haughty Spaniard and advantageous to the Dutch—the fame of whose counsels and arms resounded throughout Europe. See Davies's Hist. Holland, vol. ii. p. 432.—TR.]. It was in allusion to this that the illustrious Philip Mornay declared at the time 'that he very much wished that an armistice could be concluded, in respect to the growing contentions in the Leyden Academy; for, as the times were, nothing could fall out more unseasonable than these.' [In Epist. ad F. Aerssenium, inter Epist. Eccles.].
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