The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 12, Part 3 of 3 (p. 289-299).
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 as the shattered health of Arminius, which betrayed itself by too evident symptoms under this very conference, appeared unable to sustain any longer the effort of debate, it pleased the States to break it short. They also ordered the disputants to deliver each his own opinion, drawn up in writing, with the arguments on which it rested, and a refutation of the contrary, within the space of fourteen days; to remain in possession of the States till the Provincial Synod. There were present at the Conference from the city of Amsterdam, the honourable rulers, Jacob Boelius Cornelius P. F. Hoofdius, Cronhout, Sebestian Egberts, Jonas Witzen, and Elb. Verius, Syndic of Amsterdam [Ex Epist. vernacula Jac Arminii ad R. Episcop. 26 Aug. 1609.]. After the conference had thus come to a close, it further seemed good to the States, to summon before them apart, the assessors of each doctor, that they might severally state their opinions, not only in regard to the importance of these controversies, but also as to the remedies by which they might be allayed. On this point, however, there was the utmost diversity of sentiment. Those who stood by Gomarus exaggerated the importance of the controversies, and indicated no remedy other than the convocation, as speedily as possible, of a Provincial or National Synod. On the other hand, the assessors and coadjutors of Arminius, on being heard by themselves, gave it as their opinion, that 'that question concerning justification was either of no importance, or at most of very trivial importance, and could be settled without difficulty, if acrimony and ill-will were but laid aside, and due homage paid to peace and truth. With regard to the opinion of Arminius concerning Predestination, and questions therewith connected, considering that it was in harmony with Sacred Scripture, as well as simple, easily intelligible, and free of subtleties, they thought that it commended itself as much the better adapted of the two for the ends of consolation and instruction. In favour of Arminius was the entire tenor of the gospel; while the opinion of Gomarus transcended the gospel: and he himself, in a certain thesis, had ultroneously confessed that the doctrine of predestination, as he taught it, did not, properly speaking, pertain to the gospel.
The Rev. J. Uitenbogaert next, in name of all the rest, discoursed, in an oration replete with varied erudition and eloquence, concerning the causes of the growing dissensions, and how they were to be remedied; what care in these controversies belonged to the States; and how far in this matter their power extended [Vide Orationem hanc in Uitenbog. His. lib. 3. p. 480.]. But particularly in regard to the Synod, which most believed to be the sheet-anchor of the imperilled Church, he declared 'that it was by no means useless, yea, that it might, according to the state of times and circumstances, be necessary, provided care were taken to prevent, — what the famous Beza elsewhere affirmed of the assemblies of the Ancient Church, — the devil from acting in it as president; to foreclose which danger there did not exist any remedy more effectual, than that the illustrious Rulers, according to the authority which they possessed, should convoke a Synod thoroughly free and just, in which not only Arminius and Gomarus, but all who may happen to have some doubts and strictures on the controversies referred to, may be fully heard, and their reasons duly weighed according to the Sacred Volume. It ought, moreover, to be taken into consideration what was the aim which that Synod should, propose to itself. Under the impulse of that prejudiced sentiment and high tide of excitement by which at this time they were borne along, the greater part had this only as the object of their desire, that the majority should condemn the minority, and pronounce judgment in reference to these controversies in a manner altogether definitive and peremptory; and what sort of evils would thenceforth rush from that fountain, no candid discerner of events could be at a loss to conjecture. This Synod, therefore, ought to be convened for friendly conference between parties opposed to each other on controverted points, and to see whether they might not be able to agree among themselves. But if there seemed nothing to warrant the hope that this matter would be disposed of so promptly, and at one assembly, the safety of the State and Church would be best consulted were the illustrious States, by a formula of mutual forbearance on points that are less essential, to put an end in some measure, if only for a time, to such ecclesiastical contentions.'
Shortly after these transactions, Gomarus transmitted in writing, within the time prescribed by the States, those opinions which he had orally defended before their assembly [Prefat. Act. Synod.]. Arminius, however, on being conveyed home from the Hague, had scarcely composed himself to the task of obeying the mandates of the rulers, when the disease in its malignant form again attacked him anew, and that with an aggravated severity proportioned to the increased intensity it had gained from a harassed mind and debilitated energies. But he in the highest degree consoled himself, according to God and the testimony of his conscience, with this one reflection, that in the supreme Assembly of all Holland he had been patiently listened to by his most clement lords, to whose prudence he attributed so much as to encourage the hope that, in the event of his death, there would not be wanting among them those who, once satisfied of the justice of his cause, would throw around it the protective influence of their wisdom and favour. He sent, however, by letter, on the 12th September, a modest excuse to the States as to his inability to fulfil their commands by the appointed day; in which he stated, 'that he was confined to a sick-bed, after having already drawn up a considerable part of the prescribed document, which now, — such being the will of the Divine Disposer, — he was obliged to break off. His having been heard on a previous occasion, and the whole case at that time having been exhibited in writing, might be accepted in discharge of the present necessity. If, however, they at all desired the portion he had executed, he would take care either that, in the event of his being by the grace of Christ restored to health, they should have the whole perfect and entire, or that, in the event of his decease, they should have it in its abrupt and imperfect form. With regard, however, to the Confession he had given forth, so far was he from entertaining any doubt respecting it, that, on the contrary, he stedfastly believed it to be throughout in accordance with Scripture; he therefore persisted in it, being prepared with this very faith to appear, even at that very moment, before the tribunal of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Judge of the living and of the dead.' [Uitenbog. Hist. pag. 470.—Bertii Oratio pag. 36.].
Meanwhile, his disease gathered strength every day, in spite of every effort to arrest it by those most eminent and practised physicians, Doctors Pavius, Sebastian Egberts, Henry Saelius, and Reyner Bontius. The virulence of the malady, moreover, too deeply seated for medical art and appliance to eradicate it, daily developed new symptoms — fever, cough, enlargement of the hypochondria, difficulty of respiration, oppression from food, broken sleep, atrophy, and arthritis, which allowed the sufferer no rest. In complication with these were intestinal pains, — in the ilium and colon; together with affection of the left optic nerve, and dimness of the left eye. When this last affection became known, there were some who, abating nothing even then of their wonted rancour against him, did not scruple to interpret it as one of the judgments dealt out to the contemners of the Divine Majesty. To give some speciousness to this outrage, they bandied about, with application to Arminius, these words of the inspired prophet Zechariah [Chap. xiv. 12.], in which he speaks of the wasting away of the eyes and of the whole body: 'This shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.' To this passage, they appended another from the same prophetic book [Chap. xi. 17.]. 'Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.' ['And yet,' says Bertius, in allusion to this barbarous diversion, 'it was not "his right eye" that was affected, but his left; nor was it "utter darkness," but only a dimness; nor was his arm "clean dried up," but it was swollen. His tongue, too, articulately fulfilled its office to the very last. In this manner things above, and things below, on the right and the left, divine and human, are alike made to subserve the will of these wretched oracular expounders of the mysteries of Providence! '—Orat. in obit. Arminii.—TR.].
There were some also who, by a play on the name James Armimus (Jacobus Arminius) made him out to be a friend of this vain world. (Vani Orbis Amicus.) While others, subsequently, with the view of pouring ridicule upon this anagram, worked up another from the same name, with the addition of a single letter [The letter h, which occurs in his original name Hermanns.], in which he is himself introduced as saying, I have had a care for Sion. (habui Curam Sionis.) Meanwhile Arminius, though day by day the violence of the disease shook his frame more and more, preserved unshaken his constancy of mind and placidity of temper, and retained his power of articulate utterance to the very close of life. Nor did he betray the least abatement of his wonted cheerfulness of aspect, and kindliness of disposition; charging his afflicted and anguish-stricken wife to be resigned in spirit, and very often exhorting her to put her trust in the God of the widow.
Very frequently, too, and with the utmost fervour, did he pour out his supplications unto God, both for himself, and for the prosperity and peace of the church; and in all his conversations he testified his unmoved confidence, and thoroughly unshaken hope in Christ the Saviour. And if his brethren addressed themselves to prayer on his behalf, and he happened at the time to be overpowered by pain, he would request them now and then to pause, until he had recovered himself, and become able along with them to go through this solemn exercise.
Among many forms of prayer which he specially enjoyed, and frequently used, the following were prominent: 'O Lord Jesus, thou faithful and merciful High Priest, who consentedst to be in all things tempted like as we are, yet without sin, that, taught by this experience how hard it is to obey God in sufferings, thou mightest be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, have compassion on me, succour me, thy servant prostrate, and pressed with so many maladies. O God of my salvation, make my soul fit for thy heavenly kingdom, and my body for the resurrection. Great Shepherd of the sheep, who, through the blood of the everlasting covenant hast been brought again from the dead, O Lord and Saviour Jesus, be present with me, an infirm and afflicted sheep of thine.' [Vide Bertii Orat. Funebr. in obitum J. Arminii pag. 40.]. Very often to the friends at his bedside did he repeat the twentieth and following verse of the 13th chapter of Hebrews, from which he had drawn this last form of prayer; and this passage of Holy Writ he used to utter with such ardour of mind and overflowing fervour of spirit, that the Rev. Bartholomew Praevostius, a disciple most worthy of such a preceptor, and who was afterwards pastor of the Remonstrant church in Amsterdam, was wont to declare that it remained ever after indelibly fixed in his memory, and vividly present to his mind.
About the same time, also, from a desire to pay the last offices of piety to his preceptor, the very learned Simon Episcopius hastened from Franeker to Holland, and for several days and nights kept close by his bedside, interchanging much conversation with him on the subject of religion, the state of the Church, the knowledge of the Saviour, and the efficacy of his death and resurrection [Vide vitam Episcop. a Ph. Limburg. concionibus ejus praefixam.].
Moreover, on being admonished by his physicians, as his strength declined, of the urgent propriety, considering the uncertain issues of life, of setting his house in order, and embodying in a last will whatever charges he might wish to leave, so little did he dread the approach of the fatal hour, that he resigned himself to death with truly admirable composure of mind, and set himself to transact whatever duty required of a Christian teacher and head of a family. At this solemn season, accordingly, he drew up a testament, truly Christian in its character; and dictated in it a brief statement of his aims and manner of life. Mark the following confession of the dying man, as a signal index and evidence of his piety.
'First of all, I commend my soul, when it quits the body, into the hands of God its creator, and faithful preserver, in whose presence I testify that in simplicity and sincerity I have walked with a good conscience in my office and calling; very anxiously and scrupulously on my guard not to propound or teach aught which, by diligent application to the study of the Sacred Scriptures, I had not previously found to be in strictest harmony with these writings:— whatsoever things might prove conducive to the propagation and extension of the truth of the Christian religion, of the worship of the true God, of piety in general, and holy conversation among men, — in fine, to the tranquillity and peace, according to the Word of God, which becomes the Christian name; excluding the Papacy, with which no unity of faith, no bond of piety or Christian peace, can be maintained.'
These things having been transacted, and all his affairs set in order, the few days that yet remained were spent in the invocation of Christ the Saviour, and in meditation on the better life. During this period, his reverend brethren, J. Uitenbogaert and Adrian Borrius, who were each closely knit to him in the bonds of a most intimate friendship contracted many years before, and by a community of vicissitudes of a varied and critical kind, excelled all others in their assiduous attentions, which were to him most grateful, and refreshed his spirit by their much relished conversations and prayers. But at length, on the 19th of October, about noon, amidst the prayers of his friends, with his eyes upturned towards heaven, he peacefully yielded up to his creator God, his soul, brimful of this world's woes, already longing for release, and enjoying a foretaste of celestial bliss; several present exclaiming, as he breathed out his spirit, 'O my soul, let me die the death of the righteous!' [Bertii Oratio Funebr. pag. 43.—Et Uitenb. Hist. pag. 483.].
Thus died James Arminius, having completed a period of six years in the professorship, and in the 49th year of his age — a truly mournful loss, not only to the Academy and the Christian community, but also, and most of all, to his widow and nine children, of whom the eldest at that time had little more than attained the 17th year of his age. Among these were two little daughters, Gertrude and Angelica; the rest were males — Hermann, Peter, John, Lawrence, James, William, and Daniel; of whom, Lawrence, on reaching manhood, became a merchant in the city of Amsterdam, while Daniel prosecuted the medical art with the highest reputation. The remaining sons, after the decease of their beloved father, died in the very flower of their youth.
6 years ago