Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chapter 12 Part 2

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 12, Part 2 of 3 (p. 283-289).

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, as the rising controversies, which had now for some time been transferred from the schools to the pulpit, — yea and to the market-places, the streets, and the porticos, — engaged the minds of men alike of the highest and of the lowest rank; and while many, through ignorance, were assigning to Arminius the opinion of Gomarus, and to Gomarus the opinion of Arminius, some person, in the course of this year (1609), with the view of enabling every one to understand more accurately the state of this controversy, published a translation from the Latin into the vernacular tongue of the Theses of both the professors on the subject of Predestination, as they had been defended by them respectively a few years before (viz. in 1604). These were followed by a Dialogue from the pen of R. Donteklok, minister of Delft, in which he asserted that the opinion of Arminius was altogether opposed to the Reformed doctrine as received in the Low Countries, and was such as could not be tolerated in any divine; while the opinion of Gomarus, on the other hand, although in his judgment it soared beyond the prevailing opinion, was nevertheless fairly reconcileable therewith. This Dialogue was promptly refuted, and the fame of Arminius vindicated, by J. Arnold Corvinus, minister of the church at Leyden, in a pamphlet he published under the title of A Christian and Serious Admonition to Christian Peace. To this pamphlet not long after, Donteklok replied. The friends of Arminius, too, with the view of dissipating the very sinister rumours with which he had been assailed, translated about this time from the Latin, and submitted to the judgment of the public, his Theses on The Providence of God concerning Evil; On Man's Free Will and its Efficacy; and also those On Indulgences and Purgatory, which were put out against the Papists. But these minor publications so far from promoting the peace of the Church, operated, as the discord daily increased, like oil poured upon the flame.

Taking this into consideration, it pleased the States of Holland and Westfriesland that a friendly conference should be held anew before their assembly betwixt Gomarus and Arminius, in regard to the articles controverted between them, in which either professor for himself might choose four ministers of whose counsels it should be competent to him to avail himself. Arminius made choice of John Uitenbogaert of the Hague, Adrian Borrius of Leyden, Nicolas Grevinkovius of Rotterdam, and Adolphus Venator of Alkmaar. Gomarus, on the other hand, chose R. Acronius of Schiedam, James Eoland of Amsterdam, John Bogard of Haarlem, and Festus Hommius of Leyden.

The first and second days were consumed by various wranglings and tergiversations. In particular, Gomarus thought that Adolphus Venator was not worthy to take part in the convention, inasmuch as he had been ordered by the Classis of Alkmaar to desist for the time being from the discharge of ecclesiastical functions, on the ground of impure doctrine, and of his refusal to subscribe to the Confession and Catechism; for which reasons he demanded that another should be substituted in his place. The States rejoined that the censure thus inflicted by the Classis contravened the decree which they (the States) had issued with respect to the revisal of these formularies of agreement; and this censure, having thus been rendered by them null and void, availed nothing against Adolphus in any respect.

A lengthened discussion then ensued on the subject of this revisal; the States demanding that this point should be handled first, as the hinge on which their own decree turned as to the holding of a Synod. After the two professors had debated the matter at full length, Uitenbogaert took occasion, in a weighty speech, to expound his mind also on this same point.

At last, when about to enter upon the real question, Gomarus appealed from this political to an ecclesiastical tribunal, before which he was prepared to discuss the controverted points in the presence of delegates from the States [Vid. Uitenbog. Hist. pag. 462.].

The States, on the other hand, refused to sustain any such appeal; told him to break off these tergiversations; and added, 'that if he prolonged his pertinacious opposition they would see to what, in the circumstances, it was their duty to do.' This brought Gomarus to dismiss his quibbles; and on the day following he declared his readiness to obey the mandate of the rulers, but on these conditions:—

I. That this conference be conducted in writing, to be handed in on both sides.

II. That these writings be delivered to the National Synod for their inspection and adjudication, in order that the right of judgment, in an ecclesiastical cause, might be reserved entire to the churches.

III. That the conference commence with the subject of Justification [Praefet. Act. Synod.].

After some discussion as to the order in which the various articles ought to be considered, Arminius at length gave his consent that the one to be first handled should be Justification. The States, however, ruled that the conference should be conducted viva voce; yet not to the exclusion of Writing, when used as an aid to the memory. They further engaged, in a public letter pledging themselves to that effect, that the cause, after they had investigated it in that conference, should be reserved to the judgment of a Provincial Synod, and that, for this end, all things that might there be transacted viva voce, should subsequently be committed to writing, and that these documents would in due course be handed over to the Synod.

Among the first articles treated of at this conference, the controversy concerning Justification led the way; just as, on a previous occasion, it had also been discussed before the Supreme Court. This turned mainly on the sense of the apostle's phrase, that 'faith is imputed for righteousness' [Rom. iv. 5.]. Both doctors agreed in holding that the passage referred to treated of faith properly so called, but differed on the question, whether faith was the instrument of justification? Gomarus held the affirmative. Arminius held the negative; maintaining that faith could not properly be called an instrument, seeing it was an action; or, if the name instrument must be claimed for it, it would then be the instrument, not of justification, which is an act of the Divine mind, but of the apprehension or reception of Christ as our Redeemer, which is a human act: and that faith is graciously regarded by God, in the act of justifying, as having already fulfilled its function [Rom. iv. 5. Ex Epist. A Borrii ad G. Liv. non dum edita. 29 Septemb. 1609. Vide et Uitenb. Hist. pag. 469.].

In the second place they treated of Predestination, and first of all, of the object of election and reprobation: whether God in electing and reprobating, in one and the same act, regarded his creatures as not yet created, — as in the void of nothing, — or, on the other hand, as created: further, if he regarded them as created, whether he regarded them as sinners, or otherwise; if, as sinners, whether as sinners solely by the sin of Adam, or on the other hand, as sinners defiled by other sins also: finally, and as the crowning point, whether he contemplated those to be chosen as also believing and penitent, and those to be reprobated as unbelieving and impenitent. Arminius maintained this, Gomarus the opposite; a variety of arguments being adduced on either side.

The third place was occupied with the controversy concerning the grace of God and the free will of man. Each acknowledged that man of himself, and by his own powers, could accomplish nothing whatever in the shape of saving good; nay, Arminius declared, 'that he admitted all the operations of divine grace whatsoever, which could be maintained as present in the conversion of man, provided that no grace were maintained which was irresistible.' [Praefat. Act. Synod.]. This Gomarus disputed; maintaining that, in the regeneration of man, a certain grace of the Holy Spirit was needed which should operate so efficaciously 'that, the resistance of the flesh being thereby overcome, as many as became partakers of this grace would be certainly and infallibly converted.' He added that a great ambiguity lurked in the word irresistible, and that the opinion, formerly condemned, of the Semi-pelagians and Synergists lay wrapped up in it.

The last topic of discussion was the Perseverance of true believers; and here the question was stirred, not indeed, whether the children of God can fall away from salvation, but whether a man who has once believed cannot, by any possibility, fall away from faith. This was a doctrine which Arminius declared he had by no means opposed, or meant to oppose; but he intimated that his mind was perplexed by several difficulties on this subject, and he adduced various reasons for the doubts he entertained. To these Gomarus replied; after which the disputants were asked whether any articles yet remained on which they mutually differed. Gomarus rejoined that there were several; namely, concerning Original Sin, concerning the providence of God, concerning the authority of the Holy Scriptures, concerning the certainty of Salvation, concerning the perfection of man in this life, and various others, in regard to which he left it to the discretion of the illustrious States whether they should be discussed in this place, especially as they must again come under discussion in the Synod [Praefat. Act. Synod.].

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