The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 11, Part 2 of 3 (p. 255-266).
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.
This being done, and the conference brought to a close, the Council reported to the States of Holland 'that they, indeed, as far as they had been able to perceive from this conference, were of opinion that the controversies which had arisen between these two professors were not after all of such great importance, and had to do for the most part with certain more subtle reasonings on the subject of Predestination, which might either be omitted, or tolerated in a spirit of mutual forbearance.' On this report being made, it pleased the States forthwith to summon before them, in the Council-hall, both the professors, and the rest of the ministers concerned [Praefat. Act. Synod. Dord.]; when the Most Honourable, the Grand Pensionary (Oldenbarneveldt), addressing himself to them, among other things declared 'that it was to him matter of gratitude to God that on the great heads of Christian doctrine no controversy existed.' [Ex Declarat. Arm. coram Ord.]. And then, after having, in name of that honourable assembly, given thanks to each for this renewed and faithful endeavour, he enjoined upon them, 'to keep to themselves what had been transacted in that meeting; to advance nothing whatever that was opposed either to the Sacred Scriptures, or to the Confession and Catechism; and to direct all their counsels henceforward for the peace of the Academy and the Church;' adding, 'that the States would do their endeavour to get these controversies determined either in a National, or (if that could not be convened in time,) in a Provincial Synod.'
But Gomarus, thinking that much greater importance ought to be attached to the growing controversies, begged permission to speak, and did not scruple on that occasion to declare, 'that the opinions of his colleague on the points in dispute between them were of such a nature as would make him shrink, if he himself entertained them, from the thought of standing before God, his judge; and that unless a remedy were promptly applied, it was to be feared that there would be a mutual embroilment of one province against another, church against church, city against city, and burgher against burgher.' [Grot. Epist. ad K. Reigersb.—Praefat. Act. Synod.]. While to some these statements seemed unwarrantably harsh, others viewed them as the testimony of an unshackled and fearless conscience, and this the rather, that for several days, and most of all at that time, he had maintained some moderation of look and tone. On the other hand, to this declaration of Gomarus, which he was greatly astonished to hear, Arminius spiritedly rejoined, 'that he for his part, was by no means conscious of holding any religious sentiment of so atrocious a character; that the controversies were not so serious as all this, but chiefly concerned Predestination; and that he always adhered to the Confession of the Church in Holland, and meant still to adhere to it. That in opposition to the particular opinions of some, he had occasionally spoken, as necessity demanded; but that he had never given utterance to anything that militated against the general sentiments of the Reformed Church. That he would furnish no cause for any schism either in the Church or State. That he was, moreover, prepared to declare openly and in good faith his opinion and his aims in regard to the entire subject of religion as soon as he was commanded by his Sovereign Lords to do so; yea even now, before withdrawing from this hall.' [Ex. Declar. Arm. coram Ord.].
Many who were sincerely attached to Arminius, and to the cause of ecclesiastical peace, had anticipated from this conference a happier issue, and threw the blame of the protracted dissension upon Gomarus, who here, if ever, had scorned to yield [This is an allusion to the words, 'cedere nescius cuiquam,' which the poet Heinsius applies to Gomarus in certain verses prefixed to the collected works of the latter.]. Yea, and others, too, whose feelings rose against Gomarus in still smarter revolt, did not hesitate to declare, 'that they would rather appear before the divine tribunal with the faith of Arminius, than with the charity of Gomarus.' Hugh Grotius, for one, a man of great name, alluding to the above-mentioned conference, writes in a letter to his kinsman Reigersberg, that he had found Uitenbogaert about this time more sad ['And Gomarus more jocund,'— adds Gerard Brandt. Hist. Ref. Low Countries.—TR.] than usual — giving vent to these among other expressions: 'that although the Provincial Synod should take place, nevertheless, considering the weight of prejudice under which the affair was driven, and that the particular opinions of divines, — stealing insensibly into the minds of their disciples, and by lapse of time, and neglect of profounder inquiry, received with the tacit consent of the churches, — smothered by their authority the ardour of great intellects; and considering that in churches, not less than in other assemblies, the greater could prevail over the better part, he anticipated for the prospects of Arminius no happier issue than befell Castellio, who was so pressed by the violence of his adversaries as to "be reduced to the necessity of seeking a livelihood by labouring as a woodman.' [Origo et progress, dissens. Eccles. in Belg. p. 22.—Vid. (Grot. Epist. opus p. 3.].
That this was no chimerical fear which haunted the mind of Uitenbogaert in regard to his friend Arminius, might be too well augured from the foul lies and insults with which, more and more every day, detraction assaulted the name of the latter. For this end, there were put in circulation, at this very time, twenty, and eleven, theological articles, ascribed [That is, two series of articles consisting respectively of twenty and eleven. See the opening statements of his Apologia adv. art. xxxi., Opera p. 134.—TR.] partly to him, partly to Adrian Borrius, one of the ministers of Leyden, and partly to both; in the dissemination of which his adversaries had this sole object in view, to stir up against these two men, thus branded with the black mark of heresy, the hatred, not only of the unlettered public, but also of those who held high positions both in the Church and in the State. Of these articles, sixteen, couched in the self-same words, had already, two years before, reached the hands of Arminius. These being alike destitute of truth both as respected historical narration and theological import, Arminius thought that they would die in the bud, and might therefore pass unnoticed at the time; but when, contrary to his expectation, he perceived that they were still, and increasingly, in circulation, and were, moreover, augmented by new articles, he judged it expedient, lest the rage of calumny should gather strength from delay, and protracted silence on his part be construed as confession, to meet them with a temperate and succinct reply. The task accomplished, he showed this apologetic treatise to the very persons themselves, (men of wisdom and of great authority) by whose aid he succeeded in laying his hands on the above-named articles; but they dissuaded him from publishing it, lest the too thorough confutation of calumny should so engender ignominy to the authors of it as to influence more and more their zeal in maligning him [Ex Ep. Arm. ad S. Egb. 10. Octob. 1608.]. I cannot allow myself, in this connexion, to omit the striking words, worthy to be held in remembrance, in which, after having explained his own opinion on the articles in detail, he thus replies to a certain principal objection by way of corollary:
'There will be those, perhaps, who will twit me with appearing to answer at tunes in a tone of hesitation, when it is incumbent on a doctor and professor of theology to be sure of those things which he is to teach to others, and not to fluctuate in his opinions. To such I would answer: 1. That even a man the most learned, and the most versed in the sacred writings, is ignorant of many things, and is always a learner in the school of Christ and the Scriptures. But it is not possible for the man who is ignorant of many things, to give an unhesitating reply on all the points in regard to which an occasion or necessity of pronouncing may be presented to him, either by adversaries, or by others who wish to inquire and ascertain his mind by conversation and discussion, in private or in public. For it is better, on points respecting which he has not certain knowledge, for such a man to pronounce doubtfully rather than positively, and to intimate that he himself requires to make daily progress, and along with those inquirers to seek instruction; for no one, I trow, has advanced to such a stage of boldness as to call himself a master who is ignorant of no one thing, and who entertains a doubt on no subject whatsoever. 2. All things that come under controversy are not of equal importance. Some doctrines are such that no one may doubt concerning them who wishes to be ranged under the name of Christian; but there are others which are not of the same dignity, and in regard to which those who have treated of the Catholic doctrine have differed among themselves without detriment to the Christian truth and peace. Of what description the points are which are here treated, and respecting which I have seemed to give a dubious answer, and whether they are points of absolute necessity, will fall to be considered at the proper time. 3. If this, my reply, is not peremptory, it is not because I have advanced anything in it contrary to my conscience, but because I have not thought proper to bring out, at the first moment, all the things which I could say. I have judged my reply sufficient, and more than sufficient, for those imputations which are grounded on no reasons whatever; neither on this, that they can in truth be fastened on me, nor that they militate against the truth of the Scriptures. In reference to most of them, a simple denial, and demand for proof, would have been a discharge in full of all that they could justly claim at my hands. I have proceeded beyond this, in order to give some measure of satisfaction; and further, to stimulate them to a conference, should my brethren think it needful. This I will never refuse, provided it be proceeded with in due form, and in such a manner that fruit may be expected to result from it.'
Meanwhile that calumny which we have mentioned above, as to his strenuous efforts to promote the interests of the Papal kingdom, was also resuscitated about this same time, and was urged against him in a manner the most offensive. With the view of neutralising this falsehood, a year had scarcely elapsed since he had drawn up very learned theses concerning idolatry; adding, by way of corollary, 'that the Roman Pontiff is an idol, and that those who take him for that which he vaunts himself to be, are, for that very reason, idolaters.' Besides these he had published other theses, in which he maintained 'that the Reformed Churches had not made a secession from that of Rome, and that these churches did well in refusing to hold and profess communion with it in faith and divine worship.' Nor was this all. The more effectually even yet to seal the lips of his detractors, Arminius, shortly after the conference held in the presence of the Grand Council, got up a public disputation concerning the Roman Pontiff, maintaining that he is 'an adulterer, and the pander of the Church, the false prophet and tail of the dragon, the adversary of God and of Christ, the antichrist, the wicked servant who beats his fellow-servants, having no title to the name of bishop, the destroyer and waster of the Church.'
Yet not even by this declaration did he succeed in satisfying the suspicious tempers of some. An individual was found who, in a letter he sent to Germany, put in a mutilated form the title of his theses respecting secession from the Church of Rome, by which foreigners, and those who were unacquainted with the facts, might be led to believe that Arminius had an undue leaning to the Papal Church. Yea, a certain minister of Amsterdam, carried away by the popular clamour against him, made a public assault upon Arminius as a divine who was most unsound, and who held the Roman Pontiff to be a member of the body of Christ— 'a doctrine this,' he exclaimed, 'so exceedingly hateful to God, that it had been observed by discerning men not a few, that from the time at which certain persons had begun to maintain it, public affairs had declined, and some of our most strongly fortified cities had come to be occupied by the enemy.' This calumny was followed up by another, namely, that he was instigating many to go over to the Papacy, and furnishing occasion to some politicians to deny less stoutly the exercise of the Popish religion to those who demanded it.
But though Arminius saw no remedy for dissipating these clouds of detraction to be preferable to that of innocence and patience, still he lost no time in addressing to wise and eminent men, and in particular to the magistrates of Amsterdam, in whose city at that time the most unbridled rage of evil-speaking prevailed, his complaint of the injury thereby inflicted upon him; and he protested by letter how utterly these clamours were at variance with truth. Mark his brief declaration on this subject in a letter to the honourable Sebastian Egberts:— 'I openly profess that I do not hold the Roman Pontiff to be a member of Christ's body, but to be an enemy, a traitor, sacrilegious, a blasphemer, a tyrant, and most violent usurper of a most unjust domination over the Church; as the man of sin, as the son of perdition, as that most notorious outlaw, &c. I understand, however, by the Pope one who exercises the Pontificate in the usual manner. But if some Adrian of Utrecht, supposing him to be elevated without dishonourable artifices to the Pontifical chair, were actively to set about the reformation of the Church, making a commencement with himself the Pope, and with the Pontificate, and with the Court at Rome, and assuming nothing more than the name and authority of Bishop, — though holding the pre-eminence over all other bishops, by virtue of ancient statutes of the Church, — him I should not dare to call by the above appellations; for the man whom the minions of Antichristianism, and whom the Court at Rome hold in such hatred as to take his very life, such a one I cannot persuade myself to regard as the worst of men. Now it is believed that this man was dispatched by poison, administered by those who feared that he was about to effect a reformation in the Church, and in the Roman Court. I apprehend, however — and I think it can be established out of the Scriptures with great probability — that from him who is elevated to the Roman Pontificate, no reformation is to be expected; and if any one allows himself to be moved by that hope to make the attempt, he incurs the certain danger of death or of exile — the issue being so arranged even by God himself: for the Pontificate will be abolished by the glorious advent of Christ, and the predicted reformation is destined to take place through the separation of peoples from Babylon, which Babylon, at the time, will not be destitute of its head. But if that preacher supposes that from this opinion which I entertain, — namely, that a bill of divorcement has not yet been delivered by God to the church in which the Roman Pontiff sits enthroned, — it follows that I acknowledge even the Pope himself to be a member of the church, he blazons his own ignorance of the distinction between those who are seduced, and suffer the tyranny, on the one hand, and the False Prophet and tyrant himself on the other, who himself abnegates the name, member of the church, seeing he audaciously pronounces himself head of the church, and excommunicates all those, or holds them as excommunicated, who are not prepared to acknowledge him as head.' [Epist. Eccles. p. 212.].
Feeling persuaded that by this answer he had abundantly refuted the forementioned accusation, Arminius reckoned it a matter of no great difficulty to reply to those who at the same time affirmed of him that he had pronounced 'the fourth volume of Bellarmin to be irrefutable.' It is indeed true that though he had never employed these very words, he yet confessed that he sometimes cherished the wish that he could have seen more solidly refuted the arguments of that celebrated champion of the Romish Church, in which he strove to elicit from the opinion of certain of the Reformed, that they made the ever-blessed God the author of all sin. Nay, even the celebrated Conrad Vortius himself, who, on account of the strenuous service he rendered against the Papists, had at this time earned a high reputation, failed, in the judgment of Arminius, to do sufficient justice to the cause of the Reformed in his reply to the 'Theses of the Jesuits concerning the faith of the Calvinists.' For this reason, he deemed it the safer course to decline the authority of certain divines of the Protestant Church, and openly to declare that peculiar opinions ought not to be fastened upon the Reformed Churches; and moreover, that it might be retorted on Bellarmin that there were some also among the scholastics, and other popish divines, from whose writings the selfsame consequences might be deduced [Vid. ep. Arm. ad C. Vorst. 25. Aug. 1607. item. Ep. prid. Kal. April 1609.].
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