Monday, January 12, 2009

Chapter 13 Part 1

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 13, Part 1 of 3 (p. 300-305).

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.



On the day on which Arminius was interred, Peter Bertius, regent of the theological college, and a most accomplished man, publicly conducted the solemnities by a funeral oration in honour of Arminius, in the theological hall. In this oration (from which, in the present little work, we have very freely drawn,) he gives some brief account of the life and excellences of the deceased; adding towards the close, that his blessed memory ought to be embalmed in the Christian Church, with this elogium: 'There lived in Holland a man, whom they that did not know him could not sufficiently esteem; whom they who did not esteem him had never sufficiently known.'

The same kind office which Bertius performed in his prose oration, was also publicly rendered in song by these world-renowned men and consummate poets, Dominic Baud and Hugh Grotius, whose elegiac poems we have subjoined at the close of this memoir. To these we add a distinguished little poem of Daniel Heinsius, omitted in the collection of his poems, — for what reasons, it is not difficult to conjecture, — in which, by means of a comparison which he institutes between Arminius, the champion of the ancient liberty of the Batavians, and our Arminius, he thus celebrates, in a strain of singular elegance, the service rendered by the latter in withstanding the tyranny of the Romanists:—

'In Obitum Rev. D. Jacobi Arminii, Summi Pontificiorum Oppugnatoris.'

'Ingentem Dominum rerum Martisque nepotem
Germanus olim fregit Armini vigor,
Ausus inaccessam Romano opponere gentem,
Nihil timere doctus et fortis mori.
Horruit et nostro Tiberis se subdidit Albi,
Martisque gentem faedus invasit timor.
Quintiliae cecidere acies, terramque momordit
Ferox juventus, unico minor viro.
Nunc alter Batavo de sanguine fortis et acer,
Et veritate armatus, et fandi potens.
Mendacem invasit sublimi pectore Romam,
Sic fuit in fatis: laudem hanc Germinia servas,
Bis Roma nostros non tulisti Arminios.'

[The name of this ancient patriot was Hermann (i.e., chiefman, or chieftain), latinised by Tacitus and other Roman historians into Arminius. He flourished at the very commencement of our era, and withstood the power of imperial Rome in many a hard-fought field. The particular exploit here alluded to was the total destruction, by the hand of Arminius and his German warriors, of three Roman legions under Quintilius Varus, who, with their general, fell almost to a man in the woody pass of the Teutoburger Wald — an event which struck terror into the heart of Rome, the aged Emperor Augustus calling out in his grief for Varus to give him back his legions. This will sufficiently explain the allusions that occur in this little piece, the conception of which was furnished by the coincidence in the two names, and in Rome being in each case the party opposed. The versification is exquisite to a degree which renders translation an uninviting and somewhat perilous task. But for the sake of the English reader, in whose special service we are now engaged, we will adventure the following:—

On the death of the Rev. Doctor James Arminius, a renowned opposer of the Papists.

Rome's lordly legions, sprung of Mars,
Of old the valiant Hermann broke;
Untaught to fear, untamed by wars,
The dauntless Germans spurned the yoke.
Old Tiber, trembling at the shock,
Bowed to our Elbe his crested pride;
Hosts melted under Hermann's stroke.
The flower of Rome in battle died;
And Varus' legions sunk undone,
Crushed by the giant might of one.

Behold another Hermann strong!
A Hermann of Batavian blood;
Begirt with truth, of golden tongue,
And lofty, lion hearted mood;
Apostate Rome he well withstood;
But now in death our hero sleeps,—
So Heaven decreed, all-wise and good,—
And o'er his tomb Germania weeps;
But 'Rome!' she boasts, 'Thou Queen of pride!
Thee have my Hermanns twice defied.'—TR.]

It now remains that we subjoin a brief sketch of Arminius, descriptive at once of his person and his mind. In bodily stature he did not exceed the medium size. His eyes were black and sparkling, indicating acuteness of mind and genius. His countenance was serene. His bodily temperament was sanguineous; his limbs wall compacted, and at the prime of life, somewhat robust. His voice was slender, indeed, but sweet, musical, and sharp. He was eloquent in an admirable degree: if any subject was to be embellished, if any discussed, it was done with distinctness; the pronunciation and intonation of voice being thoroughly adapted to the sense [Baudart Hist.]. As respects his general bearing, he was courteous and affable towards all, respectful to superiors, hospitable, cheerful, — and noway disinclined among his friends to harmless sallies of wit, by way of mental relaxation; but in all that constitutes the man of gravity, the Christian, and the consummate teacher of the church, as far as human infirmity could permit, he was second to none. He adored with profound veneration the supreme and ever-blessed God; and never allowed a day to pass without pious meditation, and perusal of the Sacred Scriptures, making a commencement with fervid prayers; and in order to make the greater progress in the cultivation of piety, and the truth, he occasionally followed up these prayers with fasting. He wished to be, rather than to appear pious; and regarded nothing as of greater moment than to regulate all his actions, not by the opinion of others, but by the dictate of a pure conscience; and to confirm by his own example the truth of his own maxim, in which he pre-eminently delighted: 'Bona Conscientia Paradisus' — 'A Good Conscience is a Paradise.'

As respects the cultivation of piety, and the regard to be paid to conscience, he also acknowledged that much on his part was due to the ecclesiastical function to which, in the very flower of his youth he had already been destined. For this reason, he marked off for special castigation those persons who, — as if they bore universal knowledge about with them locked up in the cabinet of their own breast, — judged themselves entitled, on being asked their opinion on any subject, to speak forth none other than oracular utterances to be received with open ears and obsequious minds. No object, moreover, lay nearer to his heart than to see the brands of discord extinguished, and the convulsed Christian community brought back to an agreement of mutual forbearance as respects controversies which do not shake the foundations of the true soul-saving faith. So intense was this desire, that the intemperate rage of denouncing dissentients, how trivial soever the point of difference, in matters of religious opinion, not unfrequently brought the tears to his eyes. Hence he often repeated, with deep emotion, the lament of Hilary, 'that while one is launching anathemas upon another, and driving him from the communion of the Church, scarcely a single soul is gained to Christ.' [Uitenb. Hist. pag. 483.].

He rarely indulged in rhetorical garniture, and in the fragrant fineries of the Greeks, either because his nature was averse to such artifices, or because he deemed it derogatory to the majesty of divine things to call into requisition those classic names and adscititious embellishments, when the naked truth was sufficient for its own defence. He set a high value, however, as appears from his correspondence with Drusius [Epist. Eccles. pag. 33.], on the knowledge of the Hebrew and Oriental literature, by which not only the phrases of the sacred language, but also the antiquities of the ancient church of the Jews, with their rites, manners, and customs, both sacred and civil, might be discovered and explained. This he judged useful, and necessary to the ideal of a consummate theologian; and with those who attached little importance to these and kindred studies, he was in no small measure displeased. A keen debater on points connected with religion, and expert in using the subtilties of adversaries against themselves, he was in other respects disinclined to controversy, when no necessity for it existed; and he strove to make every doctrine, and all the powers of his mind and genius, subserve the aim of leading a life worthy of a Christian man. There was no air of haughtiness in his teaching; he was a mild and perspicuous interpreter of his thoughts; in argument circumspect; and so little inclined to self-confidence, that he refused to gratify the wishes of his importunate friends when they urged him to publish some work he had composed. On this very account, indeed, he was, wont to tax with no small measure of imprudence his eminent colleague, L. Trelcatius, junior, for having published, in his youthful years, A Body of Christian Theology in which, in his judgment, he had written many things, indeed, well, but many more that were little in harmony with the Sacred Scriptures [Arminii Epist. ad Uitenb. 3 Kal. Septemb. 1604].

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